Is non-alcoholic beer a good alternative for your health?

Is non-alcoholic beer a good alternative for your health?

SANTE – Un pont du 14 juillet, trois festivals majeurs (Francofolies, Lollapalooza et les Vieilles Charues), une vague de chaleur… Toutes les conditions réunies pour qu’une bonne partie de la France se rafraîchisse autour d’un apéro entre amis this weekend.

For many, who says aperitif means beer, wine or another alcoholic beverage. But we must remember that alcohol is responsible for 8% of cancers in France. “From an average drink a day, we consider that you have a risk consumption”, he explains to the HuffPost Mathilde Touvier, director of the nutritional epidemiology research team at Inserm.

Are the French aware of this risk? In any case, in recent years, just like milk and other vegetable fillets, non-alcoholic beers have become increasingly popular. In five years, sales have more than doubled, recalls the JDD. A question then arises: is a non-alcoholic beer “good” for health? And compared to what?

A non-alcoholic beer instead of a beer, yeah

“It is better to drink a non-alcoholic beer than a normal beer”, says Mathilde Touvier without hesitation. Once again, the harmful impact of alcohol on health, after a certain consumption, is no longer to be demonstrated.

“Drinking alcohol from time to time is probably fine. Once again, it is from one drink a day that the risk increases”, specifies the researcher. And the more you drink, the greater the risk. So having a glass of alcohol every once in a while to start your aperitif and then switching to a non-alcoholic drink makes sense. But is non-alcoholic beer healthier or worse than soda or fruit juice?

Before soft drinks and juices, the question of sugar

When it comes to the health impact of non-alcoholic beers, there’s no need to fear malt, barley, or other specific ingredients in beer. “There is even research that suggests that fermented foods would be beneficial for the microbiota.” No, the problem with non-alcoholic beer lies elsewhere.

“The main question comes from sugar”, explains Mathilde Touvier. The impact of sugary drinks on health is fairly well understood. “Sugar favors the appearance of cavities, NASH or ‘fatty liver disease’, increases cardiovascular mortality and the risk of diabetes”, explains the researcher. Consequently, the nutritional recommendations for sugary drinks are not to drink more than one a day. As for alcohol.

However, non-alcoholic beers are sometimes very sweet. “To be sure, you should look at the ingredient list or check the Open Food Facts site,” advises Mathilde Touvier. “If you look at a classic non-alcoholic beer, you see that sugar is the second ingredient, right behind water. So we have a nutriscore of D. Some non-alcoholic beers have a nutriscore of C because they have no or less added sugar.”

The nutriscore allows you to check the nutritional value of a product (sugar, saturated fat, salt, etc.). The C label means that the drink or food has a medium nutritional quality. To “earn more points” and move towards A or B ratings (reflecting better nutritional quality), the product must contain elements that are favored in the general diet, such as fiber or protein.

The perfect drink for summer does not contain alcohol or sugar

“There is no comprehensive study, but when you look at some references in Open Food Facts, it seems that non-alcoholic beers tend to be less sweet than soft drinks, for example,” says Mathilde Touvier. In contrast, “ginger beer”, these non-alcoholic ginger drinks are usually very sweet.

To do things right, you have to look at the nutritional information (percentage of carbohydrates, including sugar, calorie intake, etc.). But beware, for beers such as soft drinks, a false friend: sweeteners such as aspartame. “Beverages with sweeteners should not be recommended,” warns the researcher.

Studies on the subject are still limited and contradictory on the subject, but recent work, published in March 2022, seems to indicate a link between aspartame consumption and cancer in the NutriNet-Santé study.

So the message is not to favor sugar over aspartame, but to favor beverages without (too much) sugar or sweeteners. “In summer, to cool off, clearly avoid alcohol and sugary drinks, which do not quench thirst. And choose, for example, a lemonade or a sugar-free cocktail with sparkling or still water and a mint leaf”, advises Mathilde Touvier.

See also in The HuffPost: Drinks to favor or avoid in the heat wave

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