To beer or not to beer: A meta-analysis of the effects of beer consumption on cardiovascular health
A moderate alcohol consumption is demonstrated to exert a protective action in terms of cardiovascular risk. Although this property seems not to be beverage-specific, the various composition of alcoholic compounds could mediate peculiar effects in vivo. The aim of this study was to evaluate potential beer-mediated effects on the cardiovascular health in humans, using a meta-analytic approach (trial registration number: CRD42018118387). The literature search, comprising all English articles published until November, 30th 2019 in EMBASE, PubMed and Cochrane database included all controlled clinical trials evaluating the cardiovascular effects of beer assumption compared to alcohol-free beer, water, abstinence or placebo. Both sexes and all beer preparations were considered eligible. Outcome parameters were those entering in the cardiovascular risk charts and those related to endothelial dysfunction. Twenty-six trials were included in the analysis. Total cholesterol was significantly higher in beer drinkers compared to controls (14 studies, 3.52 mg/dL, 1.71-5.32 mg/dL). Similar increased levels were observed in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (18 studies, 3.63 mg/dL, 2.00-5.26 mg/dL) and in apolipoprotein A1 (5 studies, 0.16 mg/dL, 0.11-0.21 mg/dL), while no differences were detected in low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (12 studies, -2.85 mg/dL, -5.96-0.26 mg/dL) and triglycerides (14 studies, 0.40 mg/dL, -5.00-5.80 mg/dL) levels. Flow mediated dilation (FMD) resulted significantly higher in beer-consumers compared to controls (4 studies, 0.65%, 0.07-1.23%), while blood pressure and other biochemical markers of inflammation did not differ. In conclusion, the specific beer effect on human cardiovascular health was meta-analysed for the first time, highlighting an improvement of the vascular elasticity, detected by the increase of FMD (after acute intake), and of the lipid profile with a significant increase of HDL and apolipoprotein A1 serum levels. Although the long-term effects of beer consumption are not still understood, a beneficial effect of beer on endothelial function should be supposed.