Dispatches From Foreign Lands: Beer, The Wonder Drug

Originally posted 5/14/07. It elicited a funny comment!

Late last week, the Central Chronicle of Bhopal, India, published an opinion piece on the health benefits of drinking beer. This is not an entirely new topic; we’ve gotten used to reports in recent years of small amounts of various alcohols having salutary effects. Yes, beer contains B vitamins, lowers the risk of coronary heart disease (by increasing HDL and decreasing LDL), and reduces blood clotting. It even has more protein than milk (a new one on us).

What struck us about this article was not the factual information it provided - the factoid about protein notwithstanding - is its language, tone, and unclear raison d’être. The author, PS Prakasa Rao, appears to be some sort of agricultural scientist. Of course, the Central Chronicle covers a state with over 60 million people (Madhya Pradesh), and it’s certainly possible that there’s more than one PS Prakasa Rao capable of writing this piece. But unless it was written by some sort of local beer magnate, what can justify glowing praise like “beer is only an agri-food. In fact, Beer is better than Milk. A glass of beer contains more protein than does the same quantity of milk. What’s more, beer has fewer calories than apple juice, milk or cola and contains neither fat nor cholesterol.” It takes a lot of chutzpah to imply that beer is healthier than milk or apple juice, without much qualification. Eventually, Rao reveals some stunning insights like, “people with alcoholism or drug addictions should not drink beer,” and “people with liver, pancreatic diseases, or really, any type of chronic disease should speak with their doctor.”

Really. Well, just who is this intended for, anyway? Someone who doesn’t know that “pregnant or breast-feeding women should not drink beer,” but can readily understand a sentence like “these quantities [of helpful minerals] tend to improve commensurate to the quality of the beer.” This article might represent desperation or incompetence on the part of the editors of the Central Chronicle, but assuming that this type of opinion piece is common in Indian newspapers (which have an extremely high readership rate, generally), it really speaks to entirely disparate knowledge distribution channels in the U.S. and India. A piece like this would never run in a major newspaper in the United States because it’s simultaneously too facile and too technical - what an unusual combination of characteristics! Someone with the appropriate Ph.Ds could probably speak, at length, about the educational practices and sociocultural logic behind it, but lacking advanced degrees ourself, we’re just going to appreciate the differences and consider having a beer after work. Perhaps a Kingfisher?

Eagle’s Eye: Can drinking beer be good for you? [Central Chronicle]

[Photo: Pfiff!]

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Dispatches From Foreign Lands: Beer, The Wonder Drug