Brewing Trouble? Beer Drinking Linked to Psoriasis

By

Linda Wasmer Andrews

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Beer lovers, beware: A 2010 study in Archives of Dermatology linked non-light beer to an increased risk of developing psoriasis in women. The study included more than 82,500 women, whose health was tracked for 14 years. Those who drank at least five non-light beers a week were nearly twice as likely to develop psoriasis compared with nondrinkers. In contrast, light beer, wine, and liquor didn’t increase their risk.

Doctors have long suspected that heavy drinking may trigger or worsen psoriasis. It may also interfere with how well psoriasis treatment works. But in this study, it wasn’t only the amount of alcohol that mattered, but also the type.

Non-light beer raised the risk for psoriasis, but other alcoholic beverages didn’t. This suggests that some ingredient in beer other than alcohol was to blame. One possibility: Beer uses a grain such as barley for fermentation. Barley and certain other grains contain gluten—a protein to which some people with psoriasis are sensitive. Past research has shown that a gluten-free diet may decrease psoriasis symptoms in people with gluten sensitivity.

Less grain is used when making light beer. That may explain why it didn’t have the same effect as the non-light version. Wine uses grapes, not grain, for fermentation. Some types of liquor may be made with grain, but it’s separated from the liquor during distillation.

This study included only women. Older studies have found a link between psoriasis and alcohol drinking in men. More research is needed to determine whether non-light beer affects psoriasis in men the way it does in women.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 20, 2015

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Medical References

  1. “Celiac Disease.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, September 2008 (http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac);
  2. “Minimizing Flare-Ups.” American Academy of Dermatology, April 17, 2008 (http://www.skincarephysicians.com/psoriasisnet/flare_ups.html);

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