I'll Take Mine Light

September 17, 2010

If you like to have an occasional beer at a party, you may want to make that light beer: a new study performed by researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital have found that women who drink regular beer with an average alcohol content on a regular basis have a heightened risk for developing psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disease.

It seems that the alcohol in the beer may trigger immunological mechanisms responsible for producing extra skin cells known as keratinocytes as well as an inflammatory reaction which takes the form of an attack on healthy skin cells. But there may be another factor at play—regular beer has a higher starch content, usually from barley, as compared to the lighter forms of the brew.

Maybe Gluten?

In other types of liquor, the starch is removed through the process of distillation while wine is made from fermenting grape sugar instead of from starch. Barley has a very high content of the protein known as gluten. Researchers believe that perhaps it is this form of protein that might be the culprit behind the development of psoriasis. Earlier studies have shown that a diet free of gluten can help tone down the symptoms of psoriasis, making them milder.

The beer study involved more than 82,000 registered nurses, all female, aged 25-42, who were all participants in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study II. Of these participants, 2,430 said a physician had diagnosed them with psoriasis. A questionnaire called the Psoriasis Screening Tool was administered to the women. The questionnaire was created by the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) to distinguish between real and false diagnoses.

Based on the results of the questionnaires, the researchers concentrated their focus on 1,069 women, studying them over a period of 14 years, during which time their alcohol intakes were tracked. This evaluation included the overall intake of alcohol in addition to specifying the types of alcohol imbibed by the women and was performed every four years.

Only Beer

The researchers discovered that the women who drank more than 2.3 drinks a week had a higher risk for developing psoriasis than those women consuming fewer than 2.3 drinks per week. In addition to this finding, the researchers saw that the higher the alcohol intake, the greater was the risk for the development of psoriasis. But on looking more deeply into the matter, the researchers discovered that it was only the women who drank 5 or more regular (non-light) beers each week who had the elevated risk. Those women who drank light beer, or wine (red or white) had no such increased risk.

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