Consuming alcohol in moderation is associated with cardiovascular health and may even lower risk for type 2 diabetes.
However, the impact of alcohol on health is complex. Drinking more than the moderate recommendation for daily alcohol can increase risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, liver disease and may increase risk for certain cancers.
Therefore, when drinking alcohol, it is most important to focus on amount over what type of alcohol you consume. Both beer and wine in moderation may offer some health benefits.
See also: Lowest calorie alcohol
Studies have shown beer, wine and hard liquor to equally have a beneficial role on heart health.
Wine may offer additional health benefits from antioxidant content of grapes, but some large studies have still concluded no matter the source of the alcohol, moderate amounts may offer protection.
Various websites comparing the health benefits of wine and beer have mixed votes on which drink is healthier.
What may be the most determining factor for health is which drink can you stay within the moderation guideline with? Whichever that is, wine or beer, may be the healthiest for you.
Is beer or wine lower in calories?
Short term studies have shown alcohol in moderation doesn’t increase risk for weight gain (3).
However, drinking alcohol over the recommendation, whether from wine or beer, can add excess calories to the diet that can increase risk for weight gain.
There can be high individual variance on how alcohol affects weight regulation, and more long term studies are needed for alcohol intake and weight regulation.
When comparing calorie levels, wine is usually lower in calories compared to beer.
A serving of wine is considered 5 ounces and provides about 125 calories.
A serving of beer is considered 12 ounces and provides about 150 calories. However, certain types of beer could be as high as 350 calories per bottle.
Beer, wine and heart health
Many studies have shown light to moderate alcohol intake may be associated with benefiting heart health.
Wine, beer and hard liquor have all been shown to exhibit a protective role even though red wine is usually most associated with heart health.
A 1996 review (4) suggests the reason why any type of alcohol in moderation may offer heart health benefit is because it is the alcohol itself, not other components in beer or wine that seem to be beneficial.
A 2003 study (5) looking at data from over 38,000 men for 12 years found consumption of any type of alcohol in moderation was inversely associated with risk for heart attack. The type of alcohol was not significant.
Research from Harvard Health (6) also suggests the type of alcohol you choose doesn’t impact heart health from moderate alcohol consumption.
It is true red wine may offer additional benefit from the antioxidants in the grapes. Beer can also have some antioxidants even though it is generally considered lower amount than wine.
See also: Does beer cause weight gain?
Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in beer and wine
Beer is typically made from grains, yeast and hops. The main calories from beer are coming from carbohydrates and alcohol. Beer does also contain B vitamins, selenium and potassium.
In fact, beer also can provide protein and fiber. Professor Charlie Bamforth from University of California, Davis in a 2014 NPR article (7) also suggests beer is a good source of silicon which may help build bone strength.
Wine is of course made from grapes instead of grains and hops. Therefore, some nutrients from the grapes will still be found in wine.
A serving of wine can provide trace amounts of vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium and iron.
Reservatrol is an antioxidant from grapes that is also found in wine. Reservatrol has been associated with being anti-inflammatory, cancer fighting and possibly increasing longevity (8).
Reservatrol is also thought to play a role in the French paradox: why the French can eat higher amounts of butter and other foods high in fat yet have a lower risk for heart disease.
It is thought the red wine intake with reservatrol may offer some protection against cardiovascular disease in the French.
One the other hand, not all studies has shown a benefit of higher reservatrol intake and health benefit. Therefore, more research is needed.
Professor Bamforth also suggests beer is a source of antioxidants, and the antioxidants from beer may be more absorbable in the digestive tract compared to antioxidants from wine.
What are you eating with beer or wine?
When alcohol is in the blood, it can impact every body system. This means of course alcohol can affect brain function and reasoning.
Drinking too much alcohol can influence food choices which are usually for higher calorie foods. If you are debating between beer or wine, consider your food choices with each beverage.
Are you more likely to eat greasy, high calorie foods with beer? Or maybe you over indulge in dessert when you have wine for example.
No matter what alcohol beverage you prefer, stick with whichever one can keep you in the moderation guidelines.
Over consuming any type of alcohol can lower inhibition for eating (as well as everything else).
Conclusion: Is beer or wine healthier?
An argument can be made for beer OR wine to be healthier. Both beverages can offer potential heart health benefit if kept in moderation.
Both can be sources of antioxidants as well as some micronutrients. The most important factor for choosing any alcohol is quantity.
If you choose to drink, stay within the recommended moderation guideline which is one standard serving or less per day for women and up to 2 standard drinks per day for men.
Drinking more the moderate guideline, whether from wine or beer, can increase risk for many adverse health conditions.