Happy Oktoberfest! Tapping into the Health Benefits of Beer

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Wish you could be at Oktoberfest? Even if you can’t make it to the epic annual beer bash in Munich, Germany, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate your favorite ale — or benefit your health in the process.

As many studies have suggested, moderate alcohol consumption (one drink a day for women, and two for men) may be good for you: drinkers (even heavy drinkers) tend to live longer than nondrinkers, and the occasional drink has been associated with better heart health and lower stroke risk and may even boost bone density in women.


On the other hand, consuming too much alcohol is no health boon: for one thing, booze is highly caloric —  just one 12-oz. bottle of Sam Adams Octoberfest beer contains 187 calories — so overdoing it can easily lead to unwanted weight gain. Heavy drinking is also linked with a higher risk of heart problems, and even moderate consumption — more than three drinks a week — may increase the risk of breast cancer in women.

(PHOTOS: Munich’s Oktoberfest – Inside the World’s Biggest Beer Festival)

So while we’re not suggesting you go out on a binge to celebrate Oktoberfest, indulging in a beer or two a day this week in solidarity with the boozehounds in Germany may not be so bad for you. Here are some of the reasons why:

Bone health: Beer is a rich source of silicon, which increases bone density, and may help fight osteoporosis, according to a February 2010 study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. “Beers containing high levels of malted barley and hops are richest in silicon,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Charles Bamforth in a statement. A July 2012 study published by Oregon State University researchers also affirmed that moderate drinking may be especially beneficial for bone health in postmenopausal women.

(MORE: Cheers, Ladies! A Drink a Day May Mean Good Health in Older Age)

Iron: Dark beers contain more iron than light beers, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Valladolid in Spain. Iron is an essential part of a healthy diet because it helps distribute oxygen throughout the body.

Cardiovascular health: Moderate drinking is associated with a 25% to 45% lower risk of heart disease, heart attack and heart-related death. Numerous studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption boosts levels of “good” cholesterol, which is known to help prevent cardiovascular disease. It’s also linked with a lower risk of stroke.

(MORE: A Drink or Two a Day May Lower the Risk of Alzheimer’s)

Brain health: Moderate drinkers are 23% less likely to develop memory problems, Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, according to a review of previous research by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Researchers posit that alcohol may have anti-inflammatory properties (inflammation is thought to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, along with other conditions like heart disease and stroke), or that it may improve blood flow in the brain, thus boosting brain metabolism. Another theory is that small amounts of alcohol can make brain cells more fit by slightly stressing them; that makes them better able to handle the greater stress that can cause dementia.

Better hair and skin: Yep, you read that correctly. Beer can help imbue your hair with more shine and volume. Marta Wohrle, co-founder of the beauty products review site Truth in Aging, says that German Oktoberfest beers are healthy for your hair because they boast fewer chemicals and more wheat proteins than the major commercial brands, as well as a neutral flavor and smell. “German beers use a little more hops, and hops has a lot of the proteins in it that give you healthy hair,” she told Healthland in a phone interview.

Here’s Wohrle’s recipe for a beer-based hair conditioner that you can make at home — and if you want to give it an Oktoberfest twist, use Shiner Oktoberfest beer from the Spoetzl Brewery in Texas: 1 cup warm beer (preferably mildly scented), plus 1 teaspoon jojoba oil; follow up your regular shampoo with this natural, non-greasy conditioner. The beer adds body while jojoba oil adds shine.

If you’re not the DIY type, there are some ready-made beer shampoos you can buy: Cynthia Sylvia Stout, a shampoo made from organic vegan stout beer, and Bröö shampoos, conditioners and body washes, homemade with craft beers in Asheville, N.C.

(MORE: Light to Moderate Drinking in Pregnancy May Be Safe, Study Says)

Wohrle has one more recipe for a beer-based skin treatment: a moisturizing beer face mask that she says combats acne. “The yeast in beer helps control sebum and bacteria, so this is great for breakout prone skin,” she says.

Olive oil
Plain yogurt
Egg white
Almond extract
Lemon extract

Start with 1 heaping teaspoon of plain yogurt in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of almond extract, 1 teaspoon of lemon extract and 1 tablespoon of beer. Crack open an egg, separate the white and transfer it to the bowl. Discard the yolk. Whisk the mixture or blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Apply the mask evenly over a clean face, leave for 15 minutes, and then rinse with warm water.