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Arsenic in Beer May Be Caused by Filtration

Arsenic in Beer May Be Caused by Filtration

Perhaps it's time to switch over to cloudy hefeweizens?

Similar to the arsenic in apple juice craziness that hit the media a while back, beer is now getting its arsenic inspection.

Mehmet Coelhan, a researcher at the Technical University of Munich, reported that nearly 360 beers tested in Germany had some trace amounts of arsenic. And while arsenic is a natural substance that seems to pop up in water and apple juice, a few of those beers were found to have more than 25 parts per billion of arsenic. The standard for drinking water in the States? Ten parts per billion.

NPR reports that the source of arsenic seems to be the filtering process, which uses diatomaceous earth that contains iron and other metals. "The levels shouldn't be alarming, because it's the kind of thing you see in dust or air," Roger Boulton, a professor at University of California, Davis, told NPR.

The same filtration process, NPR notes, is also used for wine, and while there seems to be no taste appeal for filtering wine or beer, there is definite visual appeal in a clear, cold brew, or a crisp glass of white wine.

There aren't many other options for filtration, NPR notes, as other methods affect the taste of the brews and wines more so than diatomaceous earth. And while this means maybe we should all try some cloudy brews, let's note that the same arsenic scare occured with apple juice, to no avail. While studies found 10 percent of apple juice to contain more arsenic than drinking water standards, the FDA claimed that "a risk to public health does not exist for apple juice. Unlike drinking water, the levels routinely found in apple juice are either not detectable or occur at very low levels."

Heavy Metals Found in Wine

Oct. 29, 2008 -- Red and white wines from most European nations carry potentially dangerous doses of at least seven heavy metals, U.K. researchers find.

A single glass of even the most contaminated wine isn't poisonous. But drinking just one glass of wine a day -- a common habit in Europe and the Americas -- might be very hazardous indeed, calculate biomolecular scientist Declan P. Naughton, PhD, and Andrea Petroczi of Kingston University, London.

Naughton calculated "target hazard quotients" (THQs) for wines from 15 countries in Europe, South America, and the Middle East. The measure was designed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine safe levels of frequent, long- term exposure to various chemicals.

A THQ over 1 indicates a health risk. Typical wines, Naughton found, have a THQ ranging from 50 to 200 per glass. Some wines had THQs up to 300. By comparison, THQs that have raised concerns about heavy-metal contamination of seafood typically range between 1 and 5.


"I was surprised at this finding, and would be very interested if regulatory authorities and food-safety people will look at this," Naughton tells WebMD. "The wine industry should look at ways to remove these metals from wine, or to find out where the metals come from and prevent this from happening."

The metal ions that accounted for most of the contamination were vanadium, copper, and manganese. But four other metals with THQs above 1 also were found: zinc, nickel, chromium, and lead.

Some 30 other metal ions were measured in the wines, but THQs could not be calculated because safe daily levels for these metals are not known.

All of these oxidating metal ions pose potential problems. But the manganese contamination particularly worries behavioral neurotoxicologist Bernard Weiss, PhD, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester, N.Y. Weiss was not involved in the Naughton study.

"From the point of view of just one of these metals in wine, manganese, I would be concerned," Weiss tells WebMD. "Any time you see numbers like they have in this study, you begin to scratch your head and wonder about the effects over a long period of ingestion: Not one glass of wine last Tuesday, but a glass a day over a lifetime."

Manganese accumulation in the brain, Weiss notes, has been linked to Parkinson's disease.

Jason Pavento wanted to combine his two favorite beverages, homebrew and Mountain Dew. His creation — Mountain Brew — does just that. We’ve fiddled with his procedures a bit, based on our own experimentation, but the ingredients are the same as his original recipe. The beer turns out light and crisp, with some aroma, but not much flavor from the Mountain Dew. And, in case you’re wondering, neither the preservatives or the caffeine seem to bother the yeast. Mountain Brew is also a very easy to make. So, to mangle a phrase from their ads — just brew it!

Jolly Rancher Apple lambic is a dry, sour beer with the flavor and aroma of Granny Smith apples coming from Jolly Rancher hard candies. This latest version of the recipe is based on the results of three brewings. For best results, let the beer age warm for at least three months.

Alcoholism—use and abuse

According to the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO), alcoholism is subgrouped in two categories: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence [1]. This corresponds roughly with the concept of the American Psychiatric Association [2, 3]. Alcohol abuse describes the psychological dependence on ethanol for adequate functioning together with occasional heavy consumption, while alcohol dependence is defined as an increased alcohol tolerance together with physical symptoms upon withdrawal. In Western countries it is estimated that up to 10 % of the adult population suffers from alcoholism [4]. The highest prevalence is detected in the third to fifth decade of life, and alcoholism is seen in all races, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic strata.

Germany with a total population of 81 million inhabitants is a permissive society with respect to the drinking of alcohol. Alcohol consumption is part of the local culture. About 40 million individuals drink alcohol. The per capita alcohol consumption of 9.7 l pure ethanol and the early onset of regular or episodic intensive drinking among young people in Germany consequently leads to high alcohol-related morbidity and mortality [5].

More than 1.8 million individuals in Germany with a total population of 81 million inhabitants are alcohol dependant. For an additional 1.6 million persons the use of alcohol is harmful [6, 7]. In a world-wide setting, alcohol use disorders show similarities in developed countries, where alcohol is cheap and readily available [8]. The many complications of alcohol use and abuse are both mental and physical—in particular, gastrointestinal [9], neurological [10, 11], and cardiological [12, 13]. The relationship of alcohol with heart disease or dementia is complicated by the fact that moderate alcohol consumption was shown not only to be detrimental but to aꃎrtain degree also protective against cardiovascular disease [14] or to cognitive function in predementia.

We reviewed the effects of ethanol on the cardiovascular system in 1996 [15], including aspects of inflammation [16], rhythm disturbances [17], and hypertension [18]. In 2001 we updated the data on the ambivalent relationship between alcohol and the heart [19] and in 2008 added new evidence on a larger cohort of patients with different forms of cardiomyopathy and increased alcohol intake from the German competence network on heart failure [20].

This review revisits our past and deals with our current thinking on the epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical characteristics, and treatments available for alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

Why Is Oxygen Necessary For Fermentation?

Aerobic respiration is the first phase of active fermentation and occurs after the lag time associated with pitching yeast into a new environment. During this time, the yeast scavenges available oxygen and ferments sugars - but the byproducts of this fermentation do not include alcohol yet. The yeast needs oxygen for sterol synthesis. The sterols keep the yeast cell walls pliable which ensures cell growth and health.
This phase of fermentation, which typically can be finished in as little as several hours, will produce many new yeast cells and significantly aid the yeast in its ability to continue to ferment the remaining sugars and produce our well-beloved byproduct of fermentation, alcohol.

Live Updates

To advertise the unique product, Miller executives said they had recruited Mr. Freeman's agency for its creative track record, which includes the enormously popular campaign for Little Caesars pizza. Like much of Mr. Freeman's work, the teaser campaign for Miller that will run for the next three weeks in test markets is a chuckler.

In the teaser spot, several quirky Miller brewmeisters squirm as they prepare to unveil Miller Clear to several equally quirky Miller executives. A quick cutaway to a panel of hooting and arm-twirling beer drinkers signals that people who have tried the beer like it. When a brown bag is lifted off the beer, each executive's panic-stricken face is shown full-frame.

"To make such a drinkable beer, we did just one little thing," says the tagline in the teaser ad. The ad that will reveal the clear beer, starting April 19, also introduces the tagline, "Great Beer-Drinking Beer."

Hammering on the word beer in the tagline is necessary to fulfill the goals of the ad campaign, which are to insure people understand that Miller Clear is a beer with impeccable beer credentials, rather than a clear malt beverage like the Coors fledgling Zima brand.

So "Great Beer-Drinking Beer" makes the point, you say? But what if somebody in your bar decides to take issue, arguing that a great beer-drinking beer is a truism of sorts, not unlike Volkswagen's saying in recent ads that its new Eurovan is "the world's largest van for its size"?

A possible retort: Since when is the beverage industry beholden to logic?

Nutritional causes of “alcoholic” cardiomyopathy

Beriberi heart disease

Thiamine deficiency is common feature in a malnourished and/or alcoholic population. Thus, the concept of beriberi heart disease dominated thinking about alcohol and the heart for decades and caused many to doubt that alcohol was actually cardiotoxic [28]. But vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency is accompanied by an elevated cardiac output and diminished peripheral vascular resistance [29, 30]. According to its central hemodynamics, it can be classified as hyperdynamic cardiomyopathy or high output failure with a cardiac output >8 l/min or a cardiac index >3.9 l/min/m 2 [31, 32]. In contrast, alcoholic cardiomyopathy is characterized by a low cardiac output, associated with systemic vasoconstriction [4]. However, the high output state can lead to cardiac dilation, thus, representing a characteristic subentity of cardiomyopathy different from low output dilated cardiomyopathy. Therefore, thiamine deficiency per se is just a historical nutritional anomaly in the history of alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

Manchester arsenic-in-beer epidemic

In 1900, the Manchester arsenic-in-beer epidemic was a serious food poisoning outbreak affecting several thousand people across the North-West and Midlands of England, with many cases proving fatal. The arsenic had come from the glucose for which sulphuric acid was used in the sugar production process of a company in Leeds. Brewers had been using this sugar, thus, unknowingly poisoning the beer and as a result their customers for many years even prior to the epidemic [33]. Arsenic poising caused a multisystem disease in over 6000 cases with more than 70 deaths [34]. The syndrome included the usual signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning, with skin, nervous system, and gastrointestinal manifestations. Unusual in arsenic poisoning, but especially prominent in this epidemic, were the cardiovascular findings. In his clinical description, Ernest Reynolds wrote that “cases were associated with so much heart failure and so little pigmentation that they were diagnosed as beri-beri …”. He also found that “undoubtedly the principal cause of death has been cardiac failure. In postmortem examinations, the only prominent signs were the interstitial nephritis and the dilated flabby heart” (p. 169, [35]). This outbreak had been the first known trace metal cardiotoxic syndrome.

In 2013, the issue of arsenic in beer and wine was again prominent, when Mehmet Coelhan, a researcher at the Weihenstephan research center at the Technical University of Munich, reported at a meeting of the American Chemical Society that many of the nearly 360 beers tested in Germany had trace amounts of arsenic. The source was identified to be the filter of choice for wine and beer, i.e., diatomaceous earth [36]. The German word for it is Kieselguhr, a beige powder made up of the skeletons of diatoms. The trace amounts of arsenic have not been comparable to the arsenic-in-beer endemic in Manchester but may still reach up to 10-times the amount admitted for arsenic in drinking water in the European Union and the US.

Quebec‘s beer drinker disease

In the mid-1960s, another unexpected heart failure epidemic among chronic, heavy beer drinkers occurred in two cities in the USA, in Quebec, Canada, and in Belgium. It was characterized by congestive heart failure, pericardial effusion, and an elevated hemoglobin concentration. The explanation proved to be the addition of small amounts of cobalt chloride. Cobalt was used as a foam stabilizer by certain breweries in Canada and in the USA. In 1966 McDermott et al. [37] described the syndrome as myocardosis with heart failure, Kestelott et al. [38] added pericardial involvement and named it alcoholic pericardiomyopathy, and Morin and Daniel [39] in Quebec tracked down the etiology to cobalt intoxication to what become known as Quebec beer-drinkers cardiomyopathy. Human pathology was first described by Bonefant et al. [40]. Animal models investigated ultrastructure [41] and treatment e. g. by selenium [42]. Removal of the cobalt additive ended the epidemic in all locations. Cobalt poisoning and alcohol together acted synergistically in these patients. As the syndrome could be attributed to the toxicity of this trace element, the additive was prohibited thereafter.

Not alcohol but cobalt itself recently caused severe heart failure in a 55-year-old man, who was referred to the university hospital in Marburg to rule out coronary artery disease as the cause of his heart failure. He had become almost deaf and blind, with fever of unknown cause, hypothyroidism, and enlarged lymph nodes. Both his hips had been replaced, the left side by a CoCrMo Protasul metal prosthesis. Remembering a similar case in an episode of the TV series Dr. House, the team of J. Schäfer suspected cobalt intoxication as the cause of heart failure, which clinically mimicked Quebec‘s beer drinker disease [43]. One should note, however, that cobalt is needed in minute amounts of 0.0003 mg/day in vitamin B12 (cobalamine) to avoid megaloblastic anemia.

Final Thoughts

So drinking beer will make your body create more uric acid and interfere with your kidneys on removing it. This is a double edged sword for anyone fighting gout. Nevertheless, I know plenty of people that are still willing to take their chances and the consequences.

Abstaining from beer and alcohol is no easy lifestyle change, especially if it has always been your drink of choice. I’m not here to tell anyone to stop drinking beer.

I still love beer and the buzz. I just choose not to get obliterated like I used to! No hangover, no gout. That’s what helping me, and maybe you too, in the quest to become GOUTPROOF.

Nutmeg is a commonly used spice that comes from the nutmeg tree. Grown in Indonesia, the same tree produces the spices mace and nutmeg. Mace is produced from the red covering around the hard, inner seed that is turned into nutmeg. After drying, nutmeg can be sold whole or pre-ground. It's frequently used in spiced desserts and drinks like eggnog, and a pinch can be added to creamy and cheesy sauces and dishes. It can also be used as part of a spice mix in savory meat and vegetarian dishes.

Nutmeg contains a substance called myristicin, a narcotic with very unpleasant toxic side effects if taken in large quantities. Myristicin can be found in a number of other spices and plants but is present in higher amounts in nutmeg. Ingestion of small amounts of nutmeg is harmless to the body, including the amounts called for in all standard recipes. However, the consumption of more than 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg at once can cause side effects like wild hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and irregular heartbeat within one to six hours after ingestion. Effects can last for several hours, and, when a large amount is used, can lead to organ failure.

Pregnant women should not ingest large amounts of nutmeg as they risk birth defects or miscarriage. Nutmeg can be especially dangerous when mixed with other drugs since it can change how drugs are processed by the liver. Combining large amounts of nutmeg and other drugs has, on rare occasions, been linked to death.

The effects of nutmeg have not been extensively studied and reported cases of nutmeg poisoning are rare. Individuals should refrain from ingesting more than a typical amount of nutmeg, not exceeding a teaspoon per person. Most recipes call for 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg or less and feed multiple people, making these dishes perfectly safe without risk of side effects.

The Chemistry Behind Beer Flavor

Beer is one of the most widespread and largely consumed alcoholic drinks in the world. The total world’s beer production amounts to about 1.7 billion liters. It is a complex alcoholic beverage, containing numerous flavor-active compounds over a wide range of concentrations. Beer flavor is a delicate balance of all these compounds, and for the brewers it is a challenge to produce their products consistent in flavor, and to maintain the flavor balance for as long as possible in the market place.

Brewing is a multistage process. It starts with the mixing of barley malt and brewing water (so-called mashing) and heating of the slurry. Enzymes in the malt degrade starch and proteins and a mixture of sugars, peptides, and amino acids are formed.

Malt contains a range of carbohydrates, composed of insoluble cellulose and soluble hemicellulose, dextrin, starch, and sugars. Starch, which accounts for about 50–60% of the weight of malt, is composed of amylose, which decomposes during mashing into maltose and maltotriose and amylopectins which decomposes into glucose molecules (1).

Figure 1. Fermentable sugars.

The most important reaction during mashing is the conversion of starch into low-molecular weight fermentable sugars and unfermentable higher molecular weight dextrin. Maltose (2), the most common carbohydrate associated with brewing consists of two glucose units and maltotriose (3) of three glucose units (Figure 1). Maltotriose is still fermentable by most brewing yeast strains while higher dextrins are not. 2 Sucrose, another disaccharide, is also present in malt though in low concentration. The cellulose components in the malt do not give fermentable extract or flavor.

Time, temperature, and pH are important factors influencing the enzymatic breakdown of the starch molecules. The principal enzymes, alpha- and beta-amylase, have a different temperature and pH operating range. Alpha-amylase is more temperature resistant and has an optimum between 72 and 75 °C, but is destroyed at 80 °C. It has an optimum pH between 5.6 and 5.8. For beta-amylase, the optimum temperature is between 60 and 65 °C and the pH between 5.4 and 5.5. The difference in temperature optimum is used by the brewer to control the composition of the mash and the ratio of fermentable and nonfermentable sugars. The higher the temperature used for the mashing process, the greater the proportion of unfermentable dextrins in the liquor. The latter contribute to the body and the mouthfeel of the final beer. Mashing at lower temperatures results in more fermentable sugars and subsequently a higher alcohol production during fermentation.

Malted barley contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic and linolenic acid, which readily form oxidation products, which can be the precursors for aging compounds formed in the final beer.3. , 4. , 5. and 6. During mashing enzymatic and nonenzymatic oxidation of the unsaturated fatty acids takes place. Reduction of oxygen contact during mashing has a positive effect on the flavor stability of the final beer. 7 Brewing with barley-malt lacking the enzyme lipoxygenase-1 also results in better flavor stability of the final beer.8. and 9.

After the mashing is completed, filtration is carried out to obtain a solution containing about 12–14% (w/w) sugar, which is called sweet wort. With the filtration of the mash (called lautering or mash filtration) solid materials such as spent grains are removed. Together with the solids and the turbidity much of the unwanted fatty acid materials are also removed. The effects of the clarity of the wort after lautering on the fermentation performance and later on the flavor stability of the final beer has been a subject of many studies.10. and 11.

After the lautering, the sweet wort is boiled for at least 1 h together with hops, the flowers (so-called cones) of the female hop plant which provide flavor to beer. The boiling serves several purposes: sterilization, deactivation of enzymes, protein precipitation, color formation, removal of unwanted volatile components and, very important, the conversion (isomerization) of the main constituents of the hops, the α-acids, into the iso-α-acids, the main bittering compounds found in beer. During boiling of the wort the following changes occur.

1) Proteins and phenolic compounds from the malt form insoluble complexes and precipitate. This is important to increase the colloidal stability of the final product.

2) The wort becomes darker because of the formation of melanoidins, as a result of reactions of sugars with amino acids, oxidation of polyphenols, and caramelization of sugars.

3) Many volatile compounds, which are present in the malt and hops, such as volatile sulfur components, aldehydes, and hydrocarbons, are evaporated. This is important for the quality of the final beer, as many of these volatile compounds are considered negative for beer flavor.

Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) is a particularly important malt component, which is rapidly lost during the boiling of the wort. To decompose its precursor, S-methylmethionine (SMM), adequate boiling time is required. If the boiling is stopped too soon the remaining SMM can still decompose during the cooling of the wort, but without evaporation of the DMS formed. Consequently, a very high concentration of DMS can carry through in the final beer where it is considered an off-flavor.

Boiling concentrates the wort to its desired strength for fermentation. On average, the volume decreases by 8–10% per hour of boiling. Finally, boiling also sterilizes the wort, which is important to avoid microbiological spoilage during the next steps in the process, fermentation and maturation. After the boiling, the wort is cooled and solid materials, precipitated proteins, spent grain, and spent hops, are removed and the clear liquid (hopped wort) is ready for fermentation. Yeast is added and the solution is aerated to facilitate the yeast growth. During the main fermentation phase, yeast converts the fermentable carbohydrates in the wort into ethanol and carbon dioxide. During fermentation numerous other flavor-active volatile components, such as esters, aldehydes, and higher alcohols, are being formed as by-products, which have an important contribution to the flavor of the final beer. The composition of these flavors depends on the yeast strain and the fermentation conditions, enabling the brewers to create unique flavors in different beer types.

After the main fermentation the liquid, called green beer or young beer, is not yet ready for consumption. It contains too many undesirable flavor components, also formed during the main fermentation. It requires a period of maturation or conditioning of several weeks at low temperature during which off-flavor compounds are either transformed (reduced) into less flavor-active compounds by the remaining yeast cells or are purged by the carbon dioxide which is still formed in this phase of the process.

The most dominant compounds, which need monitoring during the maturation phase, are diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione. These compounds are particularly unwanted in lager-type beers because of their very low flavor threshold value. Only when the content of these flavor-active compounds has decreased to below their critical concentration the beer is ready for filtration and can eventually be packaged in kegs, bottles, or cans.

In order to avoid problems with microbiological contamination in the packaged beer, the bottled or canned beer may be pasteurized. Alternatively, cold sterile filtration can be used before bottling of the beer. A simplified scheme with the steps in the brewing process is depicted in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Main steps in the brewing process.

Malting and brewing technology have remained very traditional over the years, but the efficiency of the process has increased through understanding of the technology and the underpinning science. Innovation in the brewing industry is driven by cost reduction, for example, by more efficient use of the raw materials and lower energy consumption, and the need for improved quality, safety, and wholesomeness of the final product. 12

Extensive state-of-the-art knowledge of brewing science and practice is described in a standard work by Briggs et al. 13 Research and innovation in brewing process and technology and their effects on beer flavor have been reviewed by Bamforth 14 and by Meilgaard. 15

This excerpt was taken from the article, Beer Flavor by Leen C. Verhagen. The article examines the origin and formation of the dominant flavors and off-flavors in beer, with emphasis on the hop, which is a minor ingredient in beer brewing, but with a huge impact on the sensory and physical quality of the products. Flavor changes occurring during the storage of beer, and the possible precursor of some of them are highlighted. Read more here.

The article Beer Flavor was written exclusively for the Reference Module in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering. The Reference Module is a collection of comprehensive articles in the interdisciplinary fields of Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering, with easy to use searchable functions and discoverability tools, enabling you to easily understand the links between topics and push your research further. The Reference Module is reviewed continuously to ensure content is up to date and covers the whole spectrum of Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering. If a gap is spotted or if an article is deemed out of date, they are updated or new articles are commissioned exclusively for the Reference Module, as the article Beer Flavor was. Learn more about the Reference Module here.

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