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Beers rich in hops and barley malts linked to better bone health

By Guy Montague-Jones , 08-Feb-2010

A new study suggests that beers containing plenty of hops or pale barley malts could promote better bone health thanks to their dietary silicon content.

Previous studies have established that beer is an important source of bioavailable silicon but little research has been done to find out which beers to contain the most silicon.

Bone health

Researchers from the Department of Food Science & Technology at the University of California sought to plug this scientific gap because dietary silicon appears to support bone development and fight off osteoporosis – a common disease that increases the risk of fractures.

The Californian researchers said beer contains silicon in the soluble form of orthosilicic acid (OSA), which yields 50 per cent bioavailability, making it a major contributor to silicon intake in the Western diet.

But which beers contain the most dietary silicon? Writing in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, the scientists examined a wide range of beer styles to answer this question.

Hops and malt

Beers full of hops were found to be particularly good sources of silicon. Some were found to contain as much as four times more silicon than is found in malt.

But malt may be ultimately more important overall because hops are used in much smaller quantities than grain in the brewing process.

Looking more closely at malt, the researchers said barley is a better source than wheat. As for the malting process itself, pale colored barley malts were found to contain higher levels of silicon than darker varieties because they face less heat stress.

But generally, the malt process did not cause any major changes in silicon content of barley as most of the silicon in barley is in the husk, which is not affected greatly during malting.

So making an overall comment on the best silicon option, lead author Charles Bamforth said: “Beers containing high levels of malted barley and hops are richest in silicon.”

Bamforth and his colleagues also tested 100 commercial beers for silicon content and categorized the data according to beer style and source. The average silicon content of the beers sampled was 6.4 to 56.5 mg/L.

Source: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Published Online: February 8, 2010 (DOI: 10.1002/JSFA.3884); Print Issue Date: February 2010
"Silicon in Beer and Brewing."
Authors: T.R. Casey and C.W. Bamforth.

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