By Sola Ogundipe
The 2015 edition of the beer and lifestyle symposium actually lived up to its billings as Nigeria’s top celebrities across social and political circles converged at the Grand Ball Room of the Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, the venue of the event. The event drew participants – Nollywood actors, academia, scientists, and nutritionists – from far and near.
The biggest revelation of the event was Ebuka Obi-Uchendu who got married recently, revealed that he received the invitation to the event at a time “he was nursing a bottle of a popular beer brand.” I’m not an expert or research professor on a subject like this, so I don’t have any fancy slides or presentations with graphs. I’ll simply be sharing a lot more personal experiences and will try not to bore you with them. I’ll also leave most of the facts and figures to the experts here. I’ll try and speak on what I know for sure based on my time spent with beer over the years.
Born in Edo State to a banker father, he said his uncle (Bashy) who actually introduced him to beer, never had a “pot belly”. “It even stuck more with me because the two uncles I had with the largest bellies in the family, didn’t drink. Akpu is the local delicacy in Okija so as an adult now I can understand where their tummy came from. But for me at the time, they simply needed to drink beer to reduce their bellies.”
Slim and fit, Obi-Uchendu had a significant turning point during his days at the Nigerian Law School in Lagos when he said he came across a report online which gave him the licence to drop the bags of coffee at the time and pick up his bottles of beer.
“The report gave three reasons why it’s good to drink beer and study and I’ve never forgotten them. It stated that it improved creativity, made you smarter, and actually fought slight infections. Of course, it clearly said that it must be consumed in moderation just so the reverse isn’t the case. “I know I’m sort of smart and I worked hard to pass my examinations at the school so I’ll take credit for it. But maybe, just maybe the beer had something to do with it,” he said.
He recalled his visit to Ireland some years ago where he got the opportunity to take a tour of a brewery. That trip, he said, was his formal introduction to how healthy beer could be. “I still remember how shocked I was to find out that beer was about 90 percent water. Hearing about the process and seeing it gave me a wow experience. “I’d been told all my life to drink at least three litres of water a day. Maybe beer would be the answer.
“Besides water, some other ingredients stood out for me one of which was silicon (essential for bone strength). I remember the brew master saying that the average 33cl of beer contains about 22 percent of the silicon we need daily. That is compared to the almighty red wine, which has about six times less silicon content. The silicon in beer is essential for the prevention of diseases like osteoporosis amongst many others bone related conditions.
“That point in particular stayed with me because I come from a family with a history of serious cases of arthritis. I don’t know for sure that beer is the answer to arthritis but anything that could help my bones be a little less brittle, is definitely welcome,” he told the ecstatic audience.
Power of moderation
Like the experts, Obi-Uchendu also harped on the benefits of moderate consumption. “I always get asked how I manage to maintain a flat tummy and still look good in a suit when my beer and I are inseparable.
As with anything in life, it is impossible to consume beer excessively and expect the same results. Even water can lead to many complications when consumed a little too much.
Food is important to our existence but too much food comes with its own health issues. Medication heals us. But going above a doctor’s prescription is a licence to death,” he said, as the audience gave a standing ovation.
In his welcome address, the Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries, Mr. Nicholaas Vervelde restated the company’s resolve to telling the rich and positive story of beer is tied with its strong commitment to the promotion of responsible consumption. “I call on all consumers to enjoy beer responsibly.
“As the Heineken Chairman and CEO said recently, ‘…it is important to make the point that misuse of alcohol is not cool”, he said.
While some of the experts at the conference noted that heavy alcoholic consumption could negatively affect the health of especially, a woman, they also submitted that beer spa could still be used to enhance skin beauty.
How women can benefit
A nutritionist and food technology expert, Mrs. Coker Dolapo explained that a moderate intake of beer can positively impact the health and well being of women.
Coker, a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology, FNIFST explained that in the health/lifestyle hierarchy needs, special attention should be given to women because they are classified “as belonging to the risk group where micronutrients shortages are most likely to occur during their different stages of development.”
“Although the man is the ‘head’ of the house, the woman is the ‘captain of the home’. She is in charge of everybody’s healthy living. Even if taken in small amounts, the effect of alcohol on women is more than on men. “Women are more sensitive to alcohol. Alcohol dehydrogenase is a metabolising enzyme that helps the body to get alcohol out of the system. Women have less of this enzyme than men, so more of what women drink enters the blood stream as pure alcohol”, she said.
Beer as food
Coker added that beer is an alcoholic beverage, but it can be classified as food, because of its nutrient value. She listed the nutrients to include: carbohydrates, like dextrins and polysaccharides; proteins in the form of amino acids; load of vitamins like the B vitamins, vitamin C, folic acid etc; minerals like magnesium, potassium, silicon, selenium etc; it contains fibre like betaglucans etc.
She emphasised that women in particular are worried about their looks, and that beer has got a lot to do with that.
Coker revealed that Ancient Romans used beer baths to sweat out toxins, exfoliate their skin and infuse the body with vitamins. This, she said, led to a clearer skin and an improved immune system.
“Beer Spas are pretty popular in Europe. The Spas claim to fight against Acne. Most beers are made from ingredients that are rich in selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc and some B vitamins. Beer is also known to have antibacterial properties that protect against infections within your stomach. It is believed that if it is so good for your inside, surely it can be just as good for your outside, “she noted.
Also speaking at the symposium, Dr. Henk Hendricks, a biologist and a project leader in the Institute for Food and Nutrition in The Netherlands explained that moderation level of beer consumption is beneficial to cardiovascular health.
According to Hendricks, some of the inherent advantages of beer include: Low percentage of alcohol; large quantities of water; its role in rehydration; a good source of minerals; a good source of polyphenolic antioxidants; contains anti-inflammatory xanthohumoles; and a large variety of raw materials, including gluten-free’ Rich in fibers.
Professor Emevwo Biakolo of the Pan Atlantic University Lagos, who is the Chairman of the conference, also submitted that moderate beer intake in the elderly appears to be associated with significantly longer survival in men aged 60–74 years and in all elderly women.
“There is evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with better cognitive function in old age,” he said
In the view of Mr. Tony Agenmomen, Senior Strategy Manager, Nigerian Breweries explained that moderate beer drinking can offer some health benefits, adding that the evidence is overwhelming.”
Even good things can become a stumbling block to us, if used without moderation,” he said.
He listed the strategies for moderate drinking to include: Spacing drinks; alternating alcoholic drinks with water; avoiding drinking games; learning to refuse drinks; and drinking slowly.