Blogger Vani Hari, also known as the "Food Babe," is a nutrition and general health writer who has gained significant media and publicity over many of her investigations into ingredients, labels, and food establishments. As an ingredients detective, Hari has examined the truth behind labels and analyzed the truthfulness of their products. Recently, she has released findings on the beer industry's mysterious concoctions.
"Caring about what you eat doesn't necessarily translate into caring about what you drink and this is a huge mistake," wrote Hari. "I see it all the time. Someone who eats organic, makes the right choices at the grocery store, is fit and lives an extraordinarily healthy lifestyle but then drinks beer like it is going out of style."
The way alcohol metabolizes in the body can shed some light on how the body digests food, hormones, and medications. Hari looks at not only beer's influence on the organs, but also the general consequences of alcohol consumption on your health.
Alcohol breaks down differently than other substances because it goes directly into the bloodstream through the stomach and intestines, which then filters through the liver. The liver is your body's main fat-burning organ and will prioritize metabolizing alcohol over fat, which ultimately makes weight loss a more difficult process.
Hari found that, after interviewing and researching a wide variety of beer companies, American beer is made with many ingredients aside from the basic hops, malt, and yeast. But the average consumer is blind to the foreign additives that are used to clarify, stabilize, preserve, and enhance the color and flavor of beer, especially because manufacturers are not legally obligated to disclose the ingredients or list them anywhere on the packaging.
Michele Simon, a public health lawyer and president of Eat Drink Politics, spoke to Hari about the matter. "You can also thank the alcohol industry, which has lobbied for years against efforts to require ingredient labeling," she said.
What did the beer investigation reveal?
Hari began her investigation by reading Chemical Additives in Beer by the Center of Science and Public Interest, which provided a basic list of all the generally unknown additives in beer, such as high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and genetically modified organisms (GMO) like dextrose and corn syrup. The more shocking reveals started only when Hari was forced to ask specific questions because beer companies wouldn't release a list of ingredients.
Miller Coors, a very popular American beer brewed jointly with the Molson Coors Company, admitted to their use of GMOs. "Corn syrup gives beer a milder and lighter-bodied flavor. Corn syrups may be derived from a mixture of corn (conventional and biotech)."
Corona, Fosters, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Red Stripe also join in adding GMO corn syrup into their beer mixtures. Corn syrup seems to be in everything, especially high fructose corn syrup, which can be found in virtually everything from a loaf of bread to yogurt and now even Guinness. Although Guinness originated in Dublin and has successfully become one of the most widely available and popular beers in the world, it is not, in fact, Irish anymore. A multinational alcohol conglomerate based in Britain, Diageo now brews the beer, and Food Babe reveals Guinness contains isinglass, a gelatin substance produced from a fish's swim bladder. The company's public ingredient list doesn't name the hidden ingredient, which is used to remove any "haziness," solids, or yeast byproducts.
Hari thoroughly evaluated each major beer manufacturer, and found that there was a variety of bubbly beverages deemed safe enough to consume. German beers are reliable, safe choices because the German culture takes pride on crafting pure products. In fact, they have a law called "Reinheitsegebot" that limits all German beer manufactures to a core ingredients list of water, hops, yeast, malted barley, and wheat; many consumers believe these beers taste cleaner and report that they don't suffer from hangovers because of the purity regulation, which was enacted on April 23, 1516.
What beer is safe?
A reliable choice of beer that also must abide by law is Certified Organic Beers, which are not allowed to include GMOs and other harmful substances like carcinogens. Carcinogens are, in fact, found in certain beer products, such as the UK brand Newscastle, which uses caramel coloring to give it that deep brown color. Carcinogens at certain levels have been proven to cause liver problems and thyroid tumors in rats and mice.
Craft and microbrews are also safer choices, but it's important to recognize which ones are actual microbrews and which ones are wearing disguises. Miller Coors, for example, has been buying craft beers companies over the past decade and has even created Blue Moon, a popular and sweet wheat beer that consumers could find in nearly every bar.
It shouldn't be that hard to drink clean at the average bar, however; Hari has found Sierra Nevada, Heineken, and Amstel Light are fairly basic beers with non-GMO grains, and no artificial ingredients, stabilizers, or preservatives.
Hari's research took over a year to be fully fleshed out, but the importance of not only eating healthy, but also drinking healthy is what drove her to find the most she could about beer brews. Even though beer manufacturers wouldn't disclose the complete ingredients list to her, she urges consumers to do their own research before they sip the unknown.
"In the end-if you decide to drink beer, you are definitely drinking at your own risk," Hari wrote. "If you like to drink beer and want to be healthy, drink it infrequently and quiz the beer companies for the truth. Find a beer that you can trust and stick with it."