Beer Lovers, No Need to Wine: A Nutritional Comparison of Beer versus Wine

With the Super Bowl just around the corner many of you are beginning to think about your beverage of choice for the big game.


As a general rule, I don’t encourage my patients to drink alcohol but if you do choose to drink you may want to think about the health benefits of beer versus wine.



Some people may claim that, “you had me at merlot,” but for others- their drink of choice is an ice, cold beer.  Red wine has a popular reputation among health officials and society due to its health benefits when consumed consistently and in moderation*3; however, there has not been the same support for beer.1 Recent studies suggest that maybe the benefits lie within the alcohol content rather than just red wine.2


Beer:  0  Wine: 0

It is true that red wine contains substances that could reduce many symptoms and steps of heart disease and atherosclerosis (the hardening of arteries.) However, health professionals report that in practice, the decision to drink red wine versus beer is irrelevant. In fact, moderate drinkers of any alcoholic substance were found to have 30-35% less chance of having a heart attack when compared to non-drinkers.2 Cheers to red wine and beer!


Beer: 1  Wine:  1

In terms of volume, the recommend amount of beer and wine (a 12 oz. beer and 4 oz. of wine) make the contest seem unfair. Is bigger better? After breaking down the content of a beer versus a glass of wine, beer has more calories, over two times the fluid ounces of water, greater protein content, less sugar, and less alcohol than wine. Beer contains more vitamin amounts than red wine and has greater amounts of minerals in 7 out of the 11 minerals compared to red wine.1 Beer takes the lead!


Beer:  3  Wine: 1

At the end of the game, red wine’s antioxidant benefits are not fully understood and may go beyond the scope of just heart disease. However, in actual practice it is the alcohol content that is associated with decreasing the risk of heart attack. Both wine and beer have been found to be associated with an increased energy intake.4 Please talk to your doctor about what is best for you. As for beer vs. wine, let’s call it a tie. It’s up to you to determine your taste and price preferences!

Co-Author:  Tiffany Esinhart


*Dietary Guidelines for American3

Women: one alcoholic beverage per day

Men: no more than two alcoholic beverages per day


  1. “The Buzz on Beer: American Dietetic Association Offers a Toast to Good Health During American Heart Month.” Media Press Room. Eat Right. American Dietetic Association, 10 Feb. 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. <;.
  2. “Is Wine Fine, or Beer Better?” The Nutrition Source. Harvard School Of Public Health, n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. <;.
  3. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Alcohol And Public Health. CDC, 28 Oct. 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. <;.

Alcohol…A food?

“Gin and tonic, please!” – Happy Hour for the Older Adult

What does alcohol have to do with nutrition, anyway?

Believe it or not, alcohol is considered a food because it provides us with energy! This blog entry is for older adults interested in alcohol’s effects on their changing bodies.

What are current recommended limits for adults?

  • Men: 1-2 alcoholic drinks/day
  • Women: 1 alcoholic drink/day

This recommendation does not take into account the many health risks and benefits of alcohol for older adults! There are changes in the aging body that increase alcohol’s effects.

How are alcohol’s effects increased in the older adult?

See the diagram below for a better understanding of alcohol’s path in the body.

The Path of Alcohol in the body

  1. Mouth: alcohol enters the body.
  2. Stomach: some alcohol gets into the bloodstream in the stomach, but most goes on to the small intestine.
  3. Small Intestine: alcohol enters the bloodstream through the walls of the small intestine.
  4. Heart: pumps alcohol throughout the body.
  5. Brain: alcohol reaches the brain.
  6. Liver: alcohol is oxidized by the liver at a rate of about 0.5 oz per hour.
  7. Alcohol is converted into water, carbon dioxide and energy

  • Decreased body water to fat ratio – The body of the older adult naturally increases in fat content and decreases in body water.  Alcohol can be diluted in water but not in fat (think about it, if you added liquor to cooking oil would it mix or separate?). With less water available for dilution, alcohol is more concentrated in older adults.
  • Decreased liver efficiency – Meal contents, including alcohol, are broken down in the digestive system and enter the bloodstream, which is filtered by the liver. Enzymes responsible for filtering and breaking down alcohol become less efficient with age, leaving more alcohol in the blood and the body.
  • Increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier – This is just a fancy way of saying that potentially harmful contents of our blood (like alcohol) are delivered more easily to the brain.

Enough science, should I drink or not?!

Ask your doctor! However, here are some risks and benefits to consider when deciding whether alcohol consumption is safe for an older adult:

  • Risks – interactions with medications, increased risk of falls and car accidents, personal or family history of depression or alcoholism, increased risk of breast cancer
  • Benefits – important social activity especially in retirement communities (social drinking isn’t just for college students!), increased sense of independence, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (wine), increased appetite, reduced risk of dementia

Helpful Handout:  Alcohol Consumption and the Older Adult

Guest Blogger:  Sessaly Craft



  1. Alexander, F. & Duff, R. W. (1988). Social Interaction and Alcohol Use in Retirement Communities. The Gerontological Society of America28(5), 632-636.
  2. Lakhani, N. (1997). Alcohol use amongst community-dwelling elderly people: A review of the literature. Journal of Advanced Nursing25, 1227-1232.
  3. Mukamal, K. J., Kronmal, R. A., Middleton, M. A., & O’Leary, D. H. (2003). Alcohol consumption and carotid atherosclerosis in older adults. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol23, 2252-2259.
  4. Mukamal, K. J., Kuller, L. H., & Fitzpatrick, A. L. (2003). Prospective study of alcohol consumption and risk of dementia in older adults. JAMA289(11), 1405-1413.
  5. Wagner, E. H., Lacroix, A. Z., Lou, G., & Suzanne, L. G. (1994). Preventing disability and falls in older adults: A population-based randomized trial. American Journal of Public Health84(11), 1800-1806.

Photo Sources