Recently, foodbabe.com posted an article in which the author investigated the ingredients found in beer. While obtaining information from the alcohol industry must have been a daunting task, Food Babe prevailed and published an article exposing the health risks that beer companies have been trying to keep covered up by lobbying against ingredient labeling laws.
Alcohol is metabolized by the body differently than all other calories you consume. Alcohol is one of the only substances that you consume that can permeate your digestive system and go straight into your bloodstream. It bypasses normal digestion and is absorbed into the body intact, where it goes straight into the liver.
Your liver is your main fat-burning organ. If you are trying to lose weight or even maintain your ideal weight, drinking alcohol is one of your worst enemies. The liver is going to metabolize alcohol first vs. the fat you want to get rid of - making weight loss even harder. Additionally, one of the primary functions of the liver is to remove environmental toxins from your body - if it is overtaxed with alcohol, the normal removal of these toxins becomes extremely diminished and can result in rapid aging, loss of libido, and other diseases.
So, inherently, alcohol by itself is not a healthy person's best friend - but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Beer, especially American beer, is made with all sorts of ingredients beyond the basic hops, malt and yeast. There are numerous other ingredients used to clarify, stabilize, preserve, enhance the color and flavor of beer.
Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, author of Appetite for Profit, and president of Eat Drink Politics told Food Babe from foodbabe.com that the reason that beer companies don't disclose ingredients is simple: they don't have to.
"Ingredient labeling on food products and non-alcoholic beverages is required by the Food and Drug Administration. But a whole other federal agency regulates beer, and not very well. The Department of Treasury - the same folks who collect your taxes - oversees alcoholic beverages. That probably explains why we know more about what's in a can of Coke than a can of Bud. You can also thank the alcohol industry, which has lobbied for years against efforts to require ingredient labeling."Chemicals Additives in Beer
Food Babe was able to obtain a baseline list of "legal" additives allowed in beer from the book "Chemicals Additives in Beer" by the Center of Science and Public Interest. This list allowed her to ask specific questions about each beer she investigated. For example - beer sold here in America can contain several of the following ingredients:
• Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) - alcohol is already addictive with some people, but with MSG?! Holy smokes.
• Propylene Glycol (an ingredient found in anti-freeze)
• Calcium Disodium EDTA (made from formaldehyde, sodium cayanide, and Ethylenediamine)
• Many different types of sulfites and anti-microbial preservatives (linked to allergies and asthma)
• Natural Flavors (can come from anything natural including a beavers anal gland)
• High Fructose Corn Syrup
• GMO Sugars - Dextrose, Corn Syrup
• Caramel Coloring (Class III or IV made from ammonia and classified as a carcinogen)
• FD&C Blue 1 (Made from petroleum, linked to allergies, asthma and hyperactivity)
• FD&C Red 40 (Made from petroleum, linked to allergies, asthma and hyperactivity)
• FD&C Yellow 5 (Made from petroleum, linked to allergies, asthma and hyperactivity)
• Insect-Based Dyes: carmine derived from cochineal insects to color their beer.
• Animal Based Clarifiers: Findings include isinglass (dried fish bladder), gelatin (from skin, connective tissue, and bones), and casein (found in milk)
• Foam Control: Used for head retention; (glyceryl monostearate and pepsin are both potentially derived from animals)
• BPA (Bisphenol A is a component in many can liners and it may leach into the beer. BPA can mimic the female hormone estrogen and may affect sperm count, and other organ functions.)
Newcastle, a UK brand, confessed to using caramel coloring that is manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which creates carcinogenic compounds. If beer companies were required by law to list the ingredients, Newcastle would likely have to have a cancer warning label under California law because it is a carcinogen proven to cause liver tumors, lung tumors, and thyroid tumors in rats and mice.GMO ingredients used in beer
Many of the beers questioned contained one or more possible GMO ingredients.
• High Fructose Corn Syrup (Guinness - unable to provide an affidavit for non-GMO proof)
• Corn syrup (Miller Light, Coors, Corona, Fosters, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Red Stripe)
• Dextrose (Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch Light, Michelob Ultra)
• Corn (Red Stripe, Miller Coors Brand, Anheuser-Busch Brands)
When questioned about their use of GMO ingredients, Miller Coors admitted, "Corn Syrup gives beer a milder an lighter-bodied flavor. Hops add spicy aroma and bitter flavors. Yeast changes sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. There are no sugars, such as table sugars, added to our products with the exception of Sharp's, our non-alcohol brew. Small amounts of natural sugars are present in our products, but because they are in such small amounts, we do not test for them. Corn syrups may be derived from a mixture of corn (conventional and biotech)."
Pabst Blue Ribbon responded saying their corn syrup was "special" and "made of carbohydrates and some simple sugars like dextrose and maltose. The sugars are fermented into alcohol and CO2, and the carbohydrates, both from the corn syrup and the malt, remain in the beers as flavor, color and body components." Dextrose and maltose can come from a variety of substances that are sweet, but likely are derived from GMO corn because it is super cheap for a company to use corn instead of fruit or other non-GMO sources.
If you enjoy the occasional beer and wish to maintain your healthy lifestyle, choosing one without GMOs and additives is ideal. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream beers available have additives, but luckily, there are a few that don't. For example, Sierra Nevada, Heineken, and Amstel Light appear to be pretty clean (Though these companies still wouldn't disclose their full list of ingredients, they did say they use non-GMO grains, no artificial ingredients, stabilizers or preservatives).
In the end - if you decide to drink beer, you are definitely drinking at your own risk for more reasons than just the crazy ingredients that could be in them. The key point to remember is - if you like to drink beer and want to be healthy, drink it infrequently and quiz the beer companies for the truth. Find a beer that you can trust and stick with it.