Beer vs Cola: Which is Better for Health?

Which is better for health, beer or cola? In the beer vs cola competition, each has its defenders and distractors.(Also see Beer is Better than Milk for Good Health & Weight: So are Wine & Distilled Spirits or Liquor.)



I.   Beer vs Cola

II.  Glycemic Index and Load

III. Resources

IV.  References

Many people think that beer causes beer bellies. Some even consider beer a four letter word.  On the other hand, a large activist group opposes cola. It actually avoids the word ‘cola.’ It favors calling colas ‘sugar drinks’ and ‘liquid candy.’1

I. Beer vs Cola

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has analyzed the contents of both. It provides the following information.2

BeverageCaloriesFat (g.)Carb (g.)Sugars (g.)
12 oz regular beer1530.0012.640.00
12 oz regular cola1550.9238.3336.78

beer vs cola


The USDA database shows that cola contains most, but not all, of the minerals found in beer. But it contains no vitamins at all. Beer provides thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, follate, and vitamin B-12.

Beer has a strong advantage over cola nutritionally. It has no fat and no sugar. It also has fewer calories and less carbohydrate. Beer provides more minerals. And it provides vitamins. Coke has none at all.

II. Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

beer vs colaThe glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly a food or beverage causes our blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise. It measures food from 0 (water) to 100 (sugar). Those with a higher GI cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. 

However, the GI can be very misleading. The glycemic load (GL) is much accurate and realistic. The GL shows includes both the quality of carbs (the GI) and the quantity of carbs. Just as in the case of GI, a high Gl is bad.

Drinking coke would lead to a “beer belly” faster than drinking beer!

For example, watermelon has a high GI of 72 but a GL of only 2 per 100 gram serving. That is, it has carbs that quickly raise blood sugar. However, it has very few such carbs. Thus, it has a very low GL.

Clearly, it’s important to focus on glycemic load. So what’s the GL of beer vs cola? Beer has only half the GL (7.5) of cola (15.0).

People whose diets focus on a low glycemic load

  • Burn more calories.
  • Lose weight and keep it off easier.
  • Keep good and consistent blood sugar levels.
  • Lower their risk of circulation disease.
  • Reduce risk of diabetes.

Beer has yet another advantage over cola. It contains alcohol. And drinking alcohol in moderation leads to better health and longevity than abstaining.

When it comes to beer vs cola, there’s really no contest. Beer is dramatically better for health and long life.

III. Resources on Beer vs Cola for Health

Bamford, C. Beer. Health and Nutrition.  Oxford: Blackwell Science, 2004.

Binns, C., et al. Thiamin in Beer: a Health Promotion Perspective. Bentley, W. Aust: Curtin U, Nat Cent Res Prev Drug Abuse, 1988.

Borgian, A. Pop-colas and Dental Corrosion. Montreal : McGill U Lib, 2011. eScholarship id: 104481.

Denke, M. Nutritional and health benefits of beer. Am J Med Sci, 2000, 320(5), 320-6.

Films for the Hum & Sci. Coke on the rocks? NY: Films Media, 2006.

Films Media. Jamie’s Sugar Rush. NY: Films Media, 2015.

Nat Inst on Alco Abuse and Alco.  Is Beer a Four Letter Word? Rockville: The Inst, 1998.

IV. References

Liquid Candy. Center for Science in the Public Interest.

2 USDA Nat Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Release 28.