From Our 2010 Archives

Beer for Better Bones?

Beer Is a Rich Source of Bone-Boosting Silicon, Study Finds

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 8, 2010 -- Drinking beer may be good for building more than just beer bellies. A new study suggests that drinking beer may help build better bones thanks to its high silicon content.

According to the National Institutes of Health, dietary silicon in the soluble form of orthosilicic acid (OSA) may be important for the growth and development of bone and connective tissue and help reduce the risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.

Based on those findings, some studies have suggested that moderate beer drinking may help fight osteoporosis, but researchers say the silicon content of beer has never been thoroughly evaluated until now. The results show that beer indeed is a significant source of bone-building silicon in OSA form.

The study analyzed 100 commercially available beers for their silicon content and found the average silicon content ranged from 6.4 to 56.5 milligrams per liter (mg/L).

There is no recommended daily intake for silicon. But researchers say based on the average daily intake of 20-50 milligrams, 2 liters of beer, on average, would be required to satisfy that requirement. In some cases, 1 liter of beer may be enough.

Bone-Building Beer?

Beers containing high levels of malted barley and hops are richest in silicon, researcher Charles Bamforth, PhD, DSc, of the department of food science and technology at the University of California, Davis, says in a news release. “Wheat contains less silicon than barley because it is the husk of the barley that is rich in this element. While most of the silicon remains in the husk during brewing, significant quantities of silicon nonetheless are extracted into wort and much of this survives into beer.”

The results showed the India Pale Ale category of beers tends to have more silicon because they are traditionally a stronger and "hoppier" beer containing more silicon-rich malt and hops.

"By contrast, wheat-based beers contain less silicon, which seems to be related to the lower levels of silicon in wheat malt," write the researchers in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. "Additionally, wheat beers are produced with much less hops than many other beer styles."

Light lager-style beers were also lower in silicon, likely because of their use of corn during the brewing process, note the researchers.

In comparison, other sources of silicon in the diet include granola cereal, high-fiber wheat bran cereal, oatmeal, and dried dates.

SOURCES: Casey, T. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, published online Feb. 8, 2010.

News release, PhysicalScience News.

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