Cheers to that! Gut-friendly bacteria found in yoghurt is also in some beer, scientists say

Fiona MacRae
Research has found that some tipples are bursting with probiotic microbes – or bacteria and yeast credited with a host of health benefits, from combating obesity to getting a better night’s sleep - E+

Gut-friendly bacteria found in yoghurt is also in some beer, says scientists, in research worth raising a glass to.

Research has found that some tipples are bursting with probiotic microbes – or bacteria and yeast credited with a host of health benefits, from combating obesity to getting a better night’s sleep.

Examples include strong Belgian beers Hoegaarden, Westmalle Tripel and Echt Kriekenbier, which are rich in probiotic yeast.  

Unlike most beers, these brands are fermented twice – once in the brewery and again in the bottle.

The second fermentation increases the strength of the beer and creates a sharper, drier taste.

Importantly for health, the in-bottle fermentation uses a different strain of yeast to the traditional brewer’s yeast.  This yeast doesn’t just convert the sugar in the grain into alcohol, it also makes acids that are poisonous to bacteria that can make us ill.

Professor Eric Claassen (CORR), a gut bacteria expert from of Amsterdam University, said: “You are getting a stronger beer that is very, very healthy.

“We don’t want to give people a licence to drink more beer. Those of us who advocate good health know it’s very difficult for people to stop at one.

“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.”

Other research, from the University of Nebraska in the U.S., found that some beers contain up to 100,000 probiotic or “good” bacteria per ml – or 50 million per bottle.

Once in our gut, probiotic bacteria - found in probiotic yoghurt brands - kill rival “bad” bacteria that have been linked to illnesses including autism, Alzheimer’s disease and bowel cancer.

The professor said that while probiotics may be trendy today, our ancestors were aware of their benefits.

He told an event held by probiotic drink maker Yakult: “In the Middle Ages people made beer because the water was not drinkable.

“The yeast killed off the bad bacteria in the water, so it was much safer to drink beer rather than water.”

However, the advent of pasteurisation and modern production processes mean that most beer today isn’t probiotic.

Those who don’t like beer may want to feast on Italian food instead.

Research by Professor Claassen shows that garlic, onions, asparagus and artichokes, all staples of Italian cuisine, are particularly rich in probiotics – plant sugars that help good bacteria thrive.

Porridge topped with chopped banana would also do the trick, while chicory contains the highest amount of prebiotics of all foods.

Previous studies have credited beer – in small amounts – with benefits from boosting fertility to stronger bones. 

However, alcohol raises the risk of breast cancer, stroke, heart and liver disease and causes more than 7,500 deaths a year in Britain and the NHS advises not drinking more than 14 units a week.

This is equivalent to eight cans of average strength (4 per cent) beer or four and a half 330ml bottles of Westmalle Tripel .