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Behind the Beery Headlines

Remember a few weeks ago when several media outlets reported that, according to a study, beer was better pain reliever than Paracetamol? Like this one.

Well, I found the study they refer to. It’s more than just a study, it’s a systematic review and meta analysis of a number of other studies (basically, the highest level of scientific evidence), and it is quite interesting.

What the headlines (though not all the articles) forgot to mention is that it’s not beer itself that is a good analgesic, but alcohol. The headlines could’ve said that Tuzemák is a good pain reliever and they wouldn’t be lying, either. It could be said that Tuzemák is an even better pain reliever than beer, because it’s got a much higher ABV, or at least one that would act quicker. According to the abstract of the meta analysis, the higher the BAC (blood alcohol content), the less pain you’ll feel, which should come as a surprise to nobody.

An that is where the problem with the media reporting really starts, as, quoting the study’s perspective:
This meta-analysis provides robust evidence for the analgesic properties of alcohol, which could potentially contribute to alcohol misuse in pain patients. Strongest analgesia occurs for alcohol levels exceeding World Health Organization guidelines for low-risk drinking and suggests raising awareness of alternative, less harmful pain interventions to vulnerable patients may be beneficial.
That’s quite a massive caveat that I don’t remember seeing in any of the articles I’ve read. Yeah, many, if not most, repeat the mandatory mantra of “drinking with moderation”, but fail to mention that important conclusion of the study.

I’ll be the first one to say that I probably drink more than I should, and I believe that to be the case with many (if not most) people involved in beer, or booze in general, but I draw the line at drinking as a solution to a discomfort, be it physical or spiritual. That’s why I find this reporting in particular to be almost irresponsible. Anyone who’s ever suffered real, intense pain for more than a couple of hours knows how horrible it is. But pain is only a symptom and sometimes it can be next to impossible to determine the cause, which may even be psychological, and yet, these media outlets are recommending a known addictive substance to somehow solve it.

I’m really quite tired of this “beer is healthy” bullshit and I wish beer writers, reporters and bloggers, as well as people with beer related social media accounts would stop spreading it. In fact, we should perhaps condemn it more vehemently, especially when it comes from industry commissioned studies not subject to peer-review (not the case with this one, but see how it was reported). Yes, beer does have some stuff that is good for your health, there are those vitamins and shit, but if you eat well (as in a balanced diet), you are getting enough of them vitamins and shit and you don’t need any beer to complement it; and really, who the fuck need such a shit-ass excuse to go for a pint?

Na Zdraví!


  1. Hear hear! The vitamin B content of beer gets mentioned a lot; the fact that alcohol's diuretic effect means it leaves the body before it is of any benefit, less so.


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