Will Beer Be the Next Casualty of the Crisis?
The downturn could hurt high-end brewers
By Kimberly Palmer
Posted November 18, 2008
The beer industry is often described as immune to economic downturns. After all, when people get laid off, they want to nurse their sorrows with a cold one, right?
It turns out that, as the beer industry has gone increasingly upscale, the answer to that question is no longer simple. In recent years, beer sales have been relatively flat except in one category—craft beers, which are made by small, independent brewers. Amy Mittelman, author of Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer, says that the heyday for such high-end, specialty beers could soon be over as consumers look to cut costs. Mittelman spoke to U.S. News about the future—and history—of the American beer industry. (read the rest)
The titles of the various articles were instructive.
"Only One Thing Could Make Beer More Awesome - Preventing Cancer (Thanks Biobeer)"
Think you knew spent too much time pondering the wonders of beer in college? These Rice University students have you beat. They're using genetic engineering to create beer that contains resveratrol, a chemical in wine that's been shown to reduce cancer and heart disease in lab animals.
(read the rest)
MIT's Technology Review , which reproduced most of the content of the preceding entry, chose the more neutral and generically upbeat "Beer That's Good for You" (4 Nov.) and added a few details of its own:
Since headlines began trumpeting the antiaging effects of red wine a couple of years ago, the traditional toast to good health has become more meaningful. But students at Rice University, in Texas, think that beer drinkers shouldn't be left out. They're trying to engineer a yeast that produces the antiaging chemical found in red wine--resveratrol--and use it to brew "BioBeer" with a health boost.The title of this article, like that of the first, is of course slightly misleading, because beer, as such (consumed in moderation), is a healthful beverage, which, historically, solved many problems in the human diet, from provision of useful carbohydrates to the maintenance of a supply of safe potables when water was often bad; not for nothing was it called "liquid bread" in several world cultures. The point, however, is welcome.
"It's not going to prevent you from getting a beer gut from drinking too much beer, or from getting cirrhosis of the liver," says Taylor Stevenson, one of six undergraduates working on the project. "But people are already drinking beer, so why not make the activity a little healthier?"
(read the rest)
Latecomer NPR (8 Nov.) came up with the sloppily confusing title, "Turning Beer Into Wine, One Gene At A Time" (which risks conjuring up disturbing visions of Joe Six-Pack [yes, the obligatory reference is present] and Jesus in white lab coats).
The only herbal remedy that has been abandoned by proponents and marketers because evidence showed it was unsafe is ephedra - and that was only after the FDA banned it as unsafe. Proponents have never, to my knowledge, abandoned a claim or a product due to negative scientific data.And, to add insult to injury, other new studies confirmed the trend of earlier research, which showed that consumption of significant doses of supplements of even necessary vitamins and minerals not only did no good, but in fact potentially caused harm. As Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times put it, "Everyone needs vitamins, which are critical for the body. But for most people, the micronutrients we get from foods usually are adequate to prevent vitamin deficiency, which is rare in the United States." Interestingly, this is pretty much what we learned in advanced science seminar back in high school (which is longer ago than I care to remember). Linus Pauling had suggested that Vitamin C was a cure for the common cold, but our chemistry teacher scoffed at the notion and suggested that the Nobel laureate had lost his edge: "Either you're getting adequate amounts from a normal diet, or your body can't absorb them properly--in which case supplements do no good." ("News Keeps Getting Worse for Vitamins: The best efforts of the scientific community to prove the health benefits of vitamins keep falling short," Well Blog, 20 Nov.)
That is the bottom line. No industry or profession can claim to be evidence-based if they never stop using or selling a treatment because scientific evidence shows it does not work. We will see what happens to the gingko market. I predict nothing will happen. The NPA already has their spin.
As a thought experiment, imagine how you would react to a pharmaceutical company dismissing negative evidence about one of their drugs in the same way.
Health benefits? I think I'll just stick with beer (lager), thank you.