For those who may have downed one too many while cheering on their favorite athlete during the Olympics, there is a bit of news that may make them feel a little less guilty. Beer is loaded with dietary silicon, an ingredient that is key for strong bones.
A previous study that included 1,700 female participants who were light to moderate beer drinkers showed that the beer drinkers had much healthier bone density than the nondrinkers.
There is no official recommendation for daily silicon consumption, but in the United States people consume between 20 and 50 mg of silicon each day in their food. Silicon content in beer can vary from 6.4 mg/L to 56.5 mg/L and drinking two beers would probably give a person about 30 mg of the nutrient. The catch is that any more than two alcoholic drinks per day may be unhealthy, say the experts.
Charles Bamforth, lead researcher of the University of California, Davis said the take-home message for the casual drinker is “Choose the beer you enjoy. Drink it in moderation.”
Beers that contain high levels of malted barley and hops are richest in silicon, says Bamforth. Hops contain the highest amount of silicon, but they appear in smaller amounts than the grains. Pale malts had more silicon than darker brews because the roasting process of the grain seems to diminish the silicon content. Scientists are not sure why.
Orthosilicic acid, which is the type of silicon found in beer has a 50 percent bioavailability, meaning that the body can assimilate it more readily than that found in some other foods. For example, bananas are high in silicon, but have only a 5 percent bioavailability.
Bamforth and his colleague, Troy Casey, both of the university’s Department of Food Science and Technology, detailed their findings in the February issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
The average silicon levels (in milligrams per liter) of beer types:
Indian Pale Ale: 41.2
Pale Ale: 36.5
Light lagers: 17.2
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