Beer lovers, rejoice! That pint of Guinness you’re looking forward to after a long week of work may have more health benefits than you think.
Several researchers have reported that men and women who drink a moderate amount of beer generally have greater bone mass than non-drinkers. This effect wasn’t found for women who drank wine instead of beer. (Pedrera-Zamorano, 2009) This means that something in beer besides alcohol seems to have benefits for bone.
Behold! the power of silicon and phytoestrogens
Beer’s bone-building power may be due to its high levels of silicon and phytoestrogens, both of which protect against bone loss. Even non-alcoholic beer contains silicon and phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are available from several dietary sources. However, beer is known for containing more silicon than almost any other food or beverage. Our bodies need silicon to live, and bone won’t form without silicon, so silicon is considered an essential nutrient for a healthy diet.
Epidemiological studies report that dietary silicon intake of more than 40 mg/day correlates with increased bone mineral density, but the average dietary intake of silicon is 20-30 mg/day in the United States. Some types of mineral water also contain silicon in the form of orthosilicic acid, but food sources of silicon are limited. Green beans and whole grains are a good source of silicon, but nearly all Americans fail to meet their recommended daily intake of whole grains according to the USDA. .
Beer is a rich source of silicon because of the processing of barley and hops. Men typically consume more silicon than women due to the differences in beer consumption. Post-menopausal women rarely achieve 40 mg of silicon per day and average approximately 18 mg per day. Also, post-menopausal women may not absorb silicon as well as younger women.
Other benefits of silicon
In addition to bone health, silicon is also important for vascular health, and for healthy skin, hair and nails. All of those body parts depend on collagen for support and flexibility. You may think that bones don’t bend but healthy bones have some flexibility to absorb impact without breaking. Dietary silicon increases the production of collagen that supports bone, blood vessels, skin, hair, and nails. Silicon also increases the cross-linking of collagen proteins to make them stronger and less brittle.
Silicon is another example of a nutrient you need in addition to calcium and vitamin D for good bone health. The electrical properties of silicon are important for solar panels and computer chips, but silicon may also be important for our health because of its unique electrical properties in human tissues. The stimulus for bone building depends on exercise, and silicon may play a role in turning on the switch to help build bone. It’s known that silicon helps attract calcium to bone during the last stages of bone formation and exercise may help silicon do its job.
Interested in keeping your bones strong? A high-quality supplement with calcium and vitamin D taken consistently may decrease the risk of osteoporosis when combined with a healthy diet, physical activity and avoidance of cigarettes.
Dr. Charles Price is the Medical Director for the Institute of Better Bone Health (www.BoneHealthNow.com), and is rated as one of America’s top doctors. He is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and faculty member of the orthopedic residency program at Orlando Health. He is a Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Florida State University, College of Medicine. Dr. Price has authored or co-authored over 60 scientific research papers. Dr. Price is also a Certified Sports Nutritionist by the American Sports and Fitness Association.