Can Non Alcoholic Beer Be Bad For You? Will you get sick?

I’ll say right at the start, in general, i think non alcoholic beers are brilliant.

Ive written many articles about them and their benefits, some are…

But for balance, i need to write this article to highlight some of the negatives that can be associated with non alcoholic beer but also to explain how some of the perceived negatives don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Non alcoholic beer can have negative affects on you. It may not help someone addicted to alcohol and they can be higher in sugar despite being lower in calories. However some of the perceived negatives, like being bad for your liver, are more myth than fact.

Can non alcoholic beer be bad for you?

Ok, so let’s explore some of the reasons why non alcoholic beer might not be for you or how it can have a negative affect on you. Unfortunately there are some reasons not to drink it

If you have alcohol addiction issues

There are mixed theories on this, can drinking non alcoholic beer be a negative if you are a recovering alcoholic?

Some recovery websites and studies suggest even the smell of beer can trigger a relapse and certainly the taste can. Any decent non alcoholic beer would try to replicate the taste and smell of alcoholic beer.

So one school of thought is that anyone with an alcohol addiction issue should steer clear of non alcoholic beers as they blur the line and make you at high risk of relapse.

On the flip side, there are theories that much like nicotine patches, vap inhalers and even methadone for heroin, a non alcoholic beer can be a safe step down from alcohol and reduce craving.

You can buy 0.0% ABV alcohol free beer and be safe knowing there is no alcohol but it might help with some of the social or taste crutches that can be hard to go cold turkey on.

I think this is very much an individual case by case basis. I am in no doubt that for some recovering alcoholics, drinking non alcoholic beer can lead to relapse. I’m equally sure than for others, non alcoholic and alcohol free beers can be a help to wean off alcohol and then be safe in the remission phase.

If you are avoiding alcohol or beer for medical reasons

If a beer is labelled as “non alcoholic” there is a good chance it has around 0.5% ABV. This is not a lot of beer, in fact it is non alcoholic funnily enough, however it can still be enough if a person is very sensitive to it.

You may have alcohol triggered migraines and even this tiny amount might be too high for you. It is worth noting that alcohol free beers with 0.0% ABV, really are alcohol free and should not give anyone any issue if they are sensitive to alcohol or on medications that are sensitive to alcohol.

They can have an increased sugar load

One of the principle benefits of non alcoholic beers is they are lower in calories overall than alcoholic beers. However, in general, they are higher in sugar.

This is because alcohol is more calorie dense than sugar, if you see the table below.

SubstanceKCal per gram
Calories per gram

So let’s compare some alcoholic and no alcoholic beers, looking at the sugar and carb content.

BeerSugar per 12 fl oz (g)Carbs per 12 fl oz (g)
Standard USDA beer 5% ABV012.6
Brewdog Nanny State 0.5%0.14.2
Erdinger Alkoholfrei 0.4%12.618.55
Heineken 0.0%4.5516.8
Guinness 0.0%2.413.3
Non alcoholic beer comparison, sugar content – “full”

As you can see, all non alcoholic beers have at least a tiny amount of added sugar and in general they have more carbs overall. Nanny State is the anomaly in that regard.

This becomes relevant if you are on a low sugar diet or a diabetic and have to watch your sugar intake.

They can cause heartburn

Once upon a time i was riddled with heartburn. It was caused by a bug a lot of people have living in their stomach. I got some antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors and in 2 weeks i was cured! But i still vividly remember what it was like and the lengths you would go to to avoid it.

Alcohol is certainly a trigger for heartburn, so the good news is non alcoholic beers lack that. However, they are still carbonated and likely to be acidic which are other risk factors so they can still cause this if you are susceptible.

Is non alcoholic beer as bad as you think?

Now we have seen some of the issues with non alcoholic beers, i think it is important to look at some of the other main arguments against them that just don’t stack up.

I have done more research than most into non alcoholic beers and these are my findings against some of the usual negatives i hear.

You can’t drink non alcoholic beer if pregnant.

My full article of all my research on this can be read here

With this myth, we firstly need to look at the medical guidelines around pregnancy and drinking alcohol.

Regional advisorSpecific adviceAdditional comments
RCOG (UK)There is no “safe” level of alcohollow risk of harm with small amounts of alcohol
Department of Health (Australia)There is no “safe” level of alcohollow risk of harm with small amounts of alcohol 
ACOG (USA)There is no “safe” level of alcohol Serious harm unlikely if drinking before pregnancy discovered
National level advice

From the advice above, it is clear than the guidelines state that there is no safe level recommended. This is the easiest and safest advice to give.

To have a closer look at just what that means, we need to split the alcohol free beers (0.0% ABV) from the non alcoholic beers (<0.5% ABV).

Alcohol free beer (0.0% ABV)

In general, alcohol free drinks are safe in pregnancy. They have had their alcohol removed to a level below 0.05% alcohol by volume (ABV) meaning it is not physiologically active. If you compare that to a glass of fresh orange juice has an ABV of around 0.5%.

You can drink about x100 12 fl oz alcohol free beers before it counts as 1 US Standard Drink.

Another way to look at it is, x1 12 fl oz alcohol free beer is the equivalent of about half a teaspoon of regular beer. Im pretty sure your body can cope with that. The alcohol would be metabolised nearly instantly.

Non alcoholic beer (<0.5% ABV)

These beers, with an ABV of up to 0.5% are still considered non alcoholic but they can have x10 the amount of alcohol of an alcohol free beer.

If go go strictly by the medical guidelines, that no alcohol is safe, then it is entirely understandable not to drink these types of beers. However, i think some perspective is needed as to what 0.5% ABV actually is and how it sneaks into your diet in other ways regardless.

I have written a full article on the amount of alcohol in common foods which you can read here

The table below shows how much alcohol many fruits, breads and fermented foods can contain. As you will see, a ripe banana can have about the same amount of alcohol as a non alcoholic beer and fruit juices can have even more.

Type of foodHighest alcohol content (ABV) in percent %
Alcohol free drink0.05%
Non alcoholic drink0.5%
Grape juice (red)0.86%
Apple juice0.66%
Orange juice0.73%
White wine vinegar2.64%
Wheat roll0.14%
Burger roll1.28%
Rye Bread0.2%
Sweet milk rolls1.21%
Ripe Banana0.4%
Ripe Pear0.04%
Alcohol content of food

I would bet that most pregnant moms don’t think twice about drinking a glass of 0.73% orange juice but would avoid a 0.5% glass of non alcoholic beer due to the alcohol level.

Something to think about at least!

You can’t drink non alcoholic beer if breastfeeding

My full article of all my research on this can be read here

Much like drinking alcohol in pregnancy, it is best to start with the national guidelines…

Regional advisorSpecific adviceAdditional comments
NHS (UK)No more than 14 UK Units a weekSpread drinks over >3 days. Wait 2 hours after drinking until breastfeeding
Australian Breastfeeding Association Drink less than 2 Standard Drinks per day Non in first month then wait 2 hours post drinking
ACOG (USA)Drink less than 2 Standard Drinks per dayWait at least 2 hrs after drinking until breastfeeding
National breastfeeding advice

As you can see, the advice is more lenient than when you are pregnant.

Looking at the USA figure of 2 Standard drinks in a day, that equates to x200 alcohol free beers and x20 non alcoholic beers. I think that is probably adequate for anyone.

Non alcoholic beer bad is for your liver

Instinctively you think this should be true. Beer is bad isn’t it? So non alcoholic beer will be bad for your liver too, right? The answer seems to be no.

This study actually gave patients with liver failure and cirrhosis, non alcoholic beer. They felt non alcoholic beer has different compounds that exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and nutritional properties.

They concluded that the intervention of non alcoholic beer was not only well tolerated but the patients showed improvement in nutritional status, endothelial function, and quality of life.

So i think it is a stretch to say non alcoholic beer is overtly bad for your liver.

Non alcoholic beers can still get you drunk

My full article of all my research on this can be read here

In general you are unable to get drunk from non alcoholic (<0.5% ABV) beer and it is impossible to get drunk from alcohol free (0.0%) beer. The volume of non alcoholic beer required to raise your blood alcohol concentration to the legal intoxication level is not possible to consume or digest.

I calculated you would need to drink about 2 Standard drinks to give you some of the effects of alcohol.

12 Fl 0z Bottle of beer by ABV %x2 US/Canadian Standard DrinksequivalentDrinks needed for same alcohol volume
5% Regular Beer22
1.2% Low alcohol0.58
0.5% Dealcoholised/Non alcoholic0.220
0.05% Alcohol free0.02200
Standard beers vs low/non alcoholic beers

So you can see for a 0.5% beer you’d need to consume x20 12 fl oz beers to have the equivalent of 2 standard beers. 

This means you’d need to be drinking one every 3 minutes for an hour. It is over 1.5 gallons of beer in an hour. Good luck with that. In metric that is 7 litres or over 12pints.

The numbers are even more ludicrous for the alcohol free version. Its really not humanly possible to drink x10 the previous numbers. 15 gallons, 70litres or 120pints of alcohol free beer in an hour. Im pretty sure you would be dead before you’d be drunk!

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