Does beer and wine affect cholesterol levels?  – Medical press

Does beer and wine affect cholesterol levels? – Medical press

Beer is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Europe. Fortunately, beer itself does not contain natural cholesterol. So that’s something to be happy about, right? Not so fast. To help you take care of your heart, here are tips for managing high blood pressure, cholesterol, nutrition and more.

How beer affects cholesterol

Most cholesterol is made in your body, the rest comes from your diet. When your doctor talks about your cholesterol, it really means two types of cholesterol, HDL and LDL, as well as triglycerides, which are a type of fat. When we talk about total cholesterol, it is a combination of HDL and LDL cholesterol plus triglycerides.

While a cold beer can lift your spirits, beer raises your triglyceride levels. Beer does contain carbohydrates and alcohol, two substances that quickly raise triglyceride levels. And people who are more sensitive to the effects of beer may experience even higher triglyceride levels. Since triglycerides are part of your total cholesterol level, this means that if your triglycerides increase, your total cholesterol will increase as well. Ideally, your triglyceride level should be below 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Beer contains cholesterol-binding sterols

Beer is like “liquid bread” because it usually contains barley malt, yeast and hops. All of these substances contain phytosterols, which are plant compounds that bind to cholesterol and help remove it from the body. Some phytosterols, also known as plant sterols, are added to foods and beverages and marketed as cholesterol-lowering foods. So if beer naturally contains these sterols, can beer lower your cholesterol? Unfortunately, no.

The sterols found in regular beer, sitosterol or ergosterol, are at such low levels that even full beer contains too little to have any cholesterol-lowering effect. However, some research in mice has suggested that moderate consumption of beer can reduce cholesterol in the liver as well as cholesterol deposition in the aorta (the body’s largest artery). Researchers in this study noted that some unidentified components of beer may alter the way lipoproteins are metabolized and reduce the risk of heart disease. But the nature of these components and their mode of action are not fully understood.

Is wine a better option?

We’ve all heard that a glass of red wine a day can be good for your health, but research suggests that other forms of alcohol can be beneficial too.
Red wine has been the subject of many studies. In moderate amounts, it has been shown to reduce cancer, heart disease, depression, dementia and type 2 diabetes. Moderate beer consumption also reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Although beer contains some antioxidants like red wine, the specific antioxidants found in barley and hops are different from those found in wine grapes. It is not yet known whether the antioxidants in beer offer the same benefits as those in red wine, but preliminary research is promising. But overall, it seems that how often and how much you drink, not what you drink, really affects your heart.

A large study showed that men who drink moderately (two drinks a day) are 30-35% less likely to have a heart attack than people who drink heavily. For women, moderate drinking is considered one drink a day. And men who drank every day had a lower risk than those who drank only once or twice a week. This includes men who drink wine, spirits and of course beer.

Beers and wines always in moderation

Drinking beer in moderation can have beneficial effects on your heart health. However, this may not extend to your cholesterol, as drinking beer can increase your triglyceride levels.

It’s also important to remember that regularly consuming large amounts of alcohol can weaken your heart over time and lead to an inactive lifestyle, obesity and alcoholism. All of these factors can cause health problems that would far outweigh any other benefits. And keep in mind that if you really want to improve your cholesterol, regular exercise and a diet low in simple sugars and alcohol are proven ways to do it.


Degrace P, et al. (2006). Moderate beer consumption reduces hepatic triglycerides and aortic cholesterol deposition in LDLr-/- apoB100/100 mice. DOI: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2006.01.012

Denke MA. (2000). Nutritional and health benefits of beer.

Miura Y, et al. (2005). Dietary isohumulones, a bitter component of beer, increase plasma HDL-cholesterol levels and decrease hepatic cholesterol and triglycerides similar to PPARalpha activation in C57BL/6 mice.

Muller R, et al. (2012). Does beer contain compounds that can interfere with cholesterol metabolism? DOI:

Mukamal KJ et al. (2003). Role of drinking regime and type of alcohol consumed in ischemic heart disease in men. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa022095

* Presse Santé strives to convey knowledge about health in a language accessible to all. IN NO CIRCUMSTANCES can the information provided replace the advice of a medical professional.
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