Lager Man vs. Mr. IPA
April 9, 2016 3:51 AM   Subscribe

Is it healthier over the long-term to drink fewer strong beers or a few more weaker beers per sitting? Specifications inside.

Please help settle this debate between friends. Assume all other variables are equal and the people in question are above average healthy in other ways, including diet and exercise. Also, assume we are talking about craft beers in each scenario with high quality ingredients and the units are equal.

Person A (Lager Man) averages two drinking sessions per week where he favors lagers and pilsners between 4-5% ABV and over the course of his sessions drinks a full 6 pack. While occasionally feeling buzzed, he rarely feels drunk at the end of his session.

Person B (Mr. IPA) also drinks two times per week but favors stronger imperial IPAs and Belgian ales that average between 8 - 11% ABV. He only drinks two beers per session, but due to the high ABV of his drinks he usually feels drunk or very buzzed after each session.

If both of these gentlemen are in their early 30s, who is likely to have the better overall health scenario over the long-term? Consider everything from caloric intake, liver function, risk of disease and anything else I might be leaving out.

posted by the foreground to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
Theoretically, person B in your scenario is drinking less alcohol and fewer calories. So person B is doing the healthier thing on both counts.

Assuming they were consuming the same amount of alcohol, it'd still go with person B assuming there were fewer calories in the two stout craft beers than 6 regular beers (which I would).

Assuming they are consuming the same amount of calories AND alcohol, they are both binge drinking regularly and could potentially be doing damage to their organs. The reality of the situation is this anyway for A and B. The extra empty calories aren't doing them any favors, but who isn't eating a treat at least a couple times a week. Drinking a could beers every single day is healthier, and has been shown to be less likely to cause organ damage.
posted by Kalmya at 3:59 AM on April 9, 2016

Assuming that total alcohol and calories are the same (which is likely not a true assumption, but you would have to look at the individual beers' numbers to know), the only advantage of the lower alcohol beer approach is that you would probably stretch the drinking over more time, giving your body more time to process the alcohol and hence getting buzzed but not so drunk. You might also be a bit less dehydrated due to the greater dilution of the lower alcohol beer.

For what it is worth, both drinkers are above the AMA guidelines for amount of alcohol per night and likely over the weekly limit as well, depending on the actual number of "alcohol units" in the beer. Other countries have different medical guidelines and you might be in line with some of those, though it obviously isn't ideal to cherrypick your medical advice based on the answer you want.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:39 AM on April 9, 2016

This is an impossible question. But I'd still err on the side of Mr. IPA considering the well-known health benefits of both hops and yeast.
posted by Brittanie at 5:20 AM on April 9, 2016

If everything else were being held constant (including weight, genetic tolerance, level of habituation, and the duration of the drinking session), it seems implausible that Person A would be able to drink MORE alcohol per session (3-3.5 oz) without feeling drunk while Person B is drinking less alcohol (2-2.5 oz) but winding up drunk afterwards. So to start off with I think that aspect of the hypothetical is a little problematic. If this is some approximation of a real-world situation, what is likely happening is that Person B's intake of alcohol is significantly faster than that of Person A.

That said, I think there are potential holistic health consequences from being heavily buzzed/drunk multiple times a week that are irrespective of the concrete harm of alcohol as a mild poison: a person who is drunk has poorer judgment and impulse control and is--in the real world--more likely to continue drinking, to hurt themselves in some way, and (if they live in a culture with an ambivalent or negative stance toward heavy drinking) to harm their friendship networks and/or intimate relationships, both of which have long-term protective effects in terms of health.
posted by drlith at 7:07 AM on April 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I would say that the person B is feeling buzzed because their liver hasn't been able to keep up with the alcohol intake and is being stressed, so I would suppose that A is taking in adequate extra fluids from the light Ed beer and is able metabolize the alcohol more efficiently. So I say that A is safer and healthier in the long term.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:43 AM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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