Put the Yogurt Down: Strong Beer Could Provide Probiotic Benefits, Too

Artichokes, asparagus, garlic, and onions are also known to have high levels of probiotics—but hey, you could just have a pint of Hoegaarden!
December 4, 2019, 7:06pm
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Photo via Athlex on Creative Commons

Several years ago, Hall of Fame-worthy scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis brought her considerable talents to Activa commercials, which required her to talk casually about her digestive irregularities. She stared into the camera lens and downed a spoonful of Activia, giving the kind of confident smile that said "I evacuate my bowels between 9:00 and 9:04 a.m. every damn day."

Saturday Night Live turned the commercial into one of its best late-aughts sketches; Activia and its probiotics became sort-of synonymous with 'staying regular'; and then the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yanked that ad off the air, because it said that Dannon couldn't claim that Activia could relieve temporary digestive issues unless the company could rely "on two well-designed human clinical studies" to prove it.


For a lot of us, those Activia ads were one of the more mainstream efforts to connect probiotics with a healthy intestinal tract, and eating yogurt, drinking kombucha, or taking probiotics in some other form (we see you, kimchi and sauerkraut) has become a simple, non-prescription step toward 'gut health.' (The National Institute of Health said that the number of people who took probiotics or prebiotics increased by three million between 2007 and 2012; those Activia ads started running in 2008.)

But according to some new research, drinking strong beer could have some of the same benefits as other, less boozy probiotics. Professor Eric Claassen, a gut bacteria expert from Amsterdam University, said that Belgian beers like Echt Kriekenbier, Hoegaarden, and Westmalle Tripel all had high levels of probiotic yeast. "You are getting a stronger beer that is very, very healthy," he said, according to The Telegraph.

Claassen said that those beers are all fermented twice: once at the brewery, and again after they'd been bottled. That in-bottle fermentation is particularly important, because the kind of yeast used during the second fermentation has been known to combat the kind of nasty bacteria that could otherwise cause illness. (The Good Professor also said that artichokes, asparagus, garlic, and onions are also known to have high levels of probiotics—but again, you could just have a pint of Hoegaarden!)

"We don’t want to give people a license to drink more beer," Claassen buzzkilled. "In high concentrations alcohol is bad for the gut but if you drink just one of these beers every day it would be very good for you.”

Professor Claassen's remarks were presented during an event that was held by Yakult!, the probiotic-heavy, Japanese-made drink that is heralded as the world's first widely available probiotic beverage. Interestingly, the UK's Advertising Standards Agency has pulled one of that company's commercials, too, after a complaint about the ad's implied claim that drinking a bottle of Yakult could provide general health benefits.

That sounds like one more reason to get your daily dose of probiotics straight out of a beer bottle. Win/win!