Bold and Bottled, Is Beer Safer than Water?
Did you know there is a patron saint for beer? The bubonic plague spread throughout the Mediterranean in the year 542, killing 50 million people in the Roman Empire alone. The disease usually spreads through fleas, entering the skin and spreading into the lymphatic system, swelling lymph nodes. If untreated, it will annihilate 70% of all infected human beings in under a week.
When Saint Arnold encouraged people to drink beer instead of drinking water, the plague suddenly disappeared. During Saint Arnold’s reburial in 640, those carrying his body shared one mug of beer among them and witnessed a miracle; the mug never ran dry. God Bless the Catholics!
We haven’t had to worry about the Plague in a while, but we are not low on worries, especially those concerned with our drinking water. There is agriculture runoff, especially with factory farms, industrial pollution and oil spills. Now, there are prescription drugs flushing into our drinking water.
“No government regulations limit the amount of pharmaceuticals allowed in drinking water, and many public water systems have not been tested for them,” explains Alex Prud’Homme in his book The Ripple Effect. “The Associated Press … ran an investigative report headlined ‘Drugs Found in Drinking Water,’ which included a string of disturbing factoids: in Southern California, antianxiety and antiepileptic drugs were found in drinking supplies; Tucson found three medications in its drinking water; Washington, DC, tested positive for six drugs; Philadelphia discovered a staggering fifty-six pharmaceutical or by-products in its treated drinking water.”
The story also noted that bottled water companies that use purified tap water —a common practice for popular brands such as Pepsi’s Aquafina, Coca-Cola’s Dasani, and Nestlé’s Nestlé Pure Life—do not test for pharmaceuticals.”
So one wonders- or I wonder- am I better off just drinking beer?
“Microbiologists understand beer and bacteria, which is why they drink beer more than water,” writes Hank Campbell in his article “Beer Science: If Yeast Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy”.
“In fact, since hops have a preservative quality, and brewing requires boiling, ‘beer was once considered safer to drink than water,’” claims New York Times writer, Edward Rothstein.
“If you’re someplace where you are advised not to drink the water, the local beer is always a safer bet. It’s even safer than the local bottled water. Beer is boiled in the brewing process and is kept clean afterwards right through the bottle being capped and sealed, because if it isn’t, it goes bad in obvious ways that make it impossible to sell. Even if it does go bad, though, there are no life-threatening bacteria (pathogens) that can live in beer,” states Reagan Gavin Rasquinha of the Times of India.
After first conducting this research, I walked to the corner of 7Eleven and bought an 18 pack of Tecate. It is cheaper than Pellegrino and I’m usually drinking either Aquafina or tap water. “Beer has lots of calories,” my boyfriend reminded me in a singsong voice. I stroked my slight potbelly. I am skinny overall, but am always trying to have that bikini body I see everywhere in Southern California. One of my favorite dog-walking clients, a woman in her 90s, reminded me the other day, “Your little tummy is hanging out. You need longer shirts.”
I stretched down my shirt and blushed.
“Twelve ounces of Guinness has the same number of calories as 12 ounces of skim milk: about 125. That’s less than orange juice (150 calories), which is about the same as your standard, ‘full-calorie’ beer. If beer were your only source of nutrition, you’d have to drink one every waking hour just to reach your recommended daily allowance of calories (2,000 to 2,500). And nobody’s recommending you drink that many. The only natural drinks with fewer calories than beer are plain tea, black coffee and water,” writes Rasquinha.
For a week, I drank beer instead of water. That is not to say I didn’t drink water at all. Instead of a glass of water with a meal or after a day’s work, I grabbed a can of Tecate. Of course, when doing dog walks and driving from house to house, I needed something to keep me hydrated between visits and a can of beer wasn’t going to fly. When the beer diminished from the large drawer in my fridge, I went back to tap water.
The beer was filling me up fast and made me sleepy at the end of the day when I still needed to do school work. I still worried a bit about the long-term impact on my liver and waistline. That said I felt a hell of a lot safer.