Friday, 16 November 2007

Beer after sport is good for you: it's official, say Spanish beer promoters

The perils of news without context. A glance at Google News finds, not surprisingly, repetition of the science news reported in the Telegraph (Beer after sport 'is good for the body') and Daily Mail (A pint of beer is better for you after a workout than water, say scientists).
      The result may well be true, but this is just so suspect a story on a number of levels. The research: it's based on tests of only 25 subjects, with little sign of tackling the many variables in the situation (for instance, subjects were allowed to drink as much water as they liked). The practical interpretation: get real, even if one pint is beneficial, many people are not going to stop after one pint. The agenda: there's currently a media blitz in the UK on the bad effects of alcohol consumption, and this kind of story with its "something the government tells you is unhealthy turns out to be healthy" subtext is such a godsend to papers with a reactionary agenda that the origin looks potentially promotional.
      Let's take a look at sources (we have to go into Spanish and Google Manuel Castillo Garz√≥n" Cerveza). I have no idea of the general credentials of the University of Granada or its medical faculty, but it's fairly bizarre to see a science press conference with a poster of a ruddy great beer glass behind the speakers.
      I have idea whether the reported research is actually sponsored by beer manufacturers. But there's a strong traditional partnership of alcohol promotion and sport promotion, and a constant drive by various manufacturers to encourage athletes to drink something more proft-making than plain water - such as pseudoscientific water or glossily promoted hydration drinks pushed via PR departments masquerading as sports science academies. Spanish beer looks no different, so when you see a medical symposium called Beer, Sports & Health, with the Director General of Brewers of Spain as one of the lecturers, you have to wonder what interests might be afoot.
      I notice another conference, FEMEDE 07 (PDF) - FEMEDE is the Spanish Federation of Sports Medicine - of which the "Physical activity and ageing" section is sponsored by the Centro de Informaci√≥n Cerveza Y Salud (Information Centre for Beer and Health). This organisation, which promotes Spanish beer as having health benefits, has strong academic links in the medical, sports science and nutrition fields that would be a rather surprising and distinctly problematical alliance in this country.
      With the general downer on alcohol at the moment, I suspect this is a trend we'll see more of. Compare this 2006 news item, Functional beer for women, which describes the marketing of Karla, a low-alc fruit beer sold via pharmacists as a health drink. The trade organisation The Brewers of Europe is likewise getting jittery - see Trouble Brewing for Europe's Consumers - which probably explains why it is also interested in the Beer and Health angle.

1 comment:

Jon said...

Even assuming beer leaves you "slightly better" hydrated after exercise, my immediate response is 'so what'. Surely people shouldn't generally become so dehydrated during exercise that rehydration takes on a great urgency, anyway. And if the aim is to rehydrate ASAP for improved performance, the alcohol in beer will not be helpful...