Is Guinness good for your health?

Beneficial for the heart or a clever advertising campaign?
Beneficial for the heart or a clever advertising campaign? / SUR
  • An early advertising campaign claimed the popular Irish stout was 'good for you'

Guinness, Ireland's national tipple, enjoys a seasonal popularity every St Patrick's Day, when it is estimated that around 13 million pints of it are consumed worldwide.

For most of the twentieth century, St Patrick's Day was considered a strictly religious holiday in Ireland and the nation's pubs remained closed until the 1970s. Today, surveys declare that the consumption of Guinness more than doubles on 17 March.

While it is common knowledge that drinking alcohol excessively is not good for our health, some claim that a pint of Guinness might be better for us than we thought.

Studies claim that Guinness is beneficial for the heart because it contains antioxidants that slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls. It does contain fewer calories than the average lager and is said to have impressive nutritional benefits.

Guinness is often thought of as a heavy beer because of its dark colour, but it is not carbonated like regular lager, meaning, according to the Medical Daily, it is less filling.

A study in 2009 suggested that drinking Guinness - which contains calcium - in moderation can help improve bone mineral density. Another article published by the Institute of Brewing claimed that a pint of stout is full of nutrients such as all of the B vitamins, with the exception of B12. A pint of stout also contains 0.3 milligrams of iron - roughly three per cent of an adult's recommended daily dose.

Vitamins play a vital role in helping our bodies convert food into fuel, while iron helps to boost energy levels.

Another study claimed that the flavonoids in Guinness (antioxidants found in certain fruits and vegetables) can reduce the risk of heart attack caused by blood clots. The research was carried out on dogs with clogged arteries by comparing the effects of lager and Guinness: only dogs that drank Guinness benefitted from reduced clotting.

Guinness is also high in barley and barley is high in ferulic acid, which is said to boost the immune system.

But can this world-renowned beer - first produced by Arthur Guinness in Dublin in 1759 - really be considered a healthy beverage, or is its reputation the result of a clever advertising campaign?

Publicity that implies alcoholic drinks can improve physical performance or enhance personal qualities is now prohibited in Ireland, but in 1929, the company ran an advertising campaign that claimed that the consumption of Guinness could be beneficial. Based on market research data of people who claimed they felt better after consuming a pint, the slogan 'Guinness is Good for You' was born.

The campaign suggested that the stout gave people “strength” and “energy”, claiming “nothing takes its place.” They even went as far as suggesting that a second pint might be even more beneficial, with a clever play on the word toucan, the brand's mascot.

It would appear that the famous Irish stout might well have health benefits if consumed with caution, but Guinness is still alcohol, and consuming too much can lead to numerous health problems.

While moderate consumption of alcohol may have heart benefits for some, alcohol can also increase a woman's risk of breast cancer.

It was once not uncommon for a doctor to advise pregnant women to drink Guinness for its health benefits, but today, experts caution of the dangers associated with consuming any alcohol while pregnant.

Diageo, the company now responsible for manufacturing Guinness, is keen to point out that it never makes any medical claims about its drinks.