It's no longer just a slogan...
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Drink to your health
By Kevin Hunt, The Hartford Courant
April 9, 2004
A man walks into a bar and orders a 12-ounce bottle of Corona Extra. Another man walks in and orders a 12-ounce Guinness draft.
The two men turn to each other, raise their glasses and say, "Here's to your health."
Question: Whose dietary and health interests are better served by the 12-ounce beer?
If the guidelines are less alcohol, fewer calories, fewer carbohydrates and, to top it off, protection against heart attacks, blindness and maybe even impotence, then it's the Guinness drinker, hands-down.
Guinness, in fact, is lower in alcohol, calories and carbohydrates than Samuel Adams, Budweiser, Heineken and almost every other major-brand beer not classified as light or low-carb. It has fewer calories and carbohydrates than low-fat milk and orange juice, too. Could this be the same Irish stout that looks like a still-life root-beer float and tastes about as filling as a quarter-pounder with cheese?
Yes, the same Guinness that beer expert Michael Jackson (the British king of hops) calls the world's classic dry stout. It's a favorite of Bono (obviously), Madonna (with a good cigar) and Matt Damon (no, Guinness does not make teeth unnaturally white).
This tastes-great, more-filling formula defies nutritional expectations because Guinness is so low in alcohol, a source of empty calories. Guinness is 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, the same as Coors Light. Budweiser and Heineken check in at 5 percent.
"That surprised me," says Dr. Joseph Brennan, a Yale-New Haven Hospital cardiologist of Irish heritage and a confirmed Guinness drinker.
"I could never understand why one or two wouldn't leave me light-headed."
Brennan, like many cardiologists, recommends a drink a day for his cardiac patients. Red wine, in particular, has been shown to help prevent heart attacks. Now maybe it's beer's turn. A University of Wisconsin study last fall found that moderate consumption of Guinness worked like aspirin to prevent clots that increase the risk of heart attacks. In the study, Guinness proved twice as effective as Heineken at preventing blood clots. Guinness is loaded with flavonoids, antioxidants that give dark color to certain fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants are better than vitamins C and E, the study found, at keeping bad LDL (bad) cholesterol from clogging arteries. Blocked arteries also contribute to erectile dysfunction, as does overindulgence in alcohol.
Guinness has a higher concentration than lighter beers of vitamin B, which lowers levels of homocysteine, linked to clogged arteries. And researchers have found that antioxidants from the moderate use of stout might reduce the incidence of cataracts by as much as 50 percent.
It's milk's line, but beer gives you strong bones, too.
"The reason, we think, is that beer is a major contributor to the diet of silicon," says Katherine Tucker, an associate professor of nutritional epidemiology at Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
Tucker recently participated in a study that showed beer, either dark or light, protects bone-mineral density because of its high levels of silicon, which allows the deposit of calcium and other minerals into bone tissue.
In Ireland, where the slogan "Guinness Is Good for You" was born, the stout's medicinal uses are the stuff of legend. Diageo, the U.S. distributor of Guinness, makes no claims about its medical benefits, says spokeswoman Beth Davies from the company's offices in Stamford, Conn. But a visitor to Ireland might hear accounts (most no longer, if ever, true) of Guinness administered to nursing mothers, blood donors, stomach and intestinal post-operative patients and mothers recovering from childbirth.
"Pregnant women and racehorses, one a day," says Michael Foley of Wethersfield, Conn., standing over a pint of Guinness in the subterranean bar at the Irish American Home Society in Glastonbury, Conn.