It doesn’t get better than having a cold beer on a hot summer day. But if you’re drinking a beer hiding any of these deadly additives, your health may be in danger.

Five Deadly Ingredients Hiding in Your Beer

In All Health Watch, Diet and Nutrition, Featured Article, Top 5's

Thinking of having a few cold ones this Memorial Day weekend? You may want to do your homework first.

Alcohol in moderation may help you reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke…1 But if your beer has any of these dangerous substances in it, forget about the benefits. That brew may be doing more damage to your health than you could imagine.

Here are five deadly ingredients hiding in your beer…and one simple way to avoid them:

1. Caramel Coloring: Brown ales—like Newcastle—have a smooth taste and enticing color. Too bad it may be coming from toxic additives. Artificial caramel colorings—like 4-Mel—don’t have to appear on beer labels in the U.S.2 And that’s a problem: 4-Mel is a carcinogen.3 Even if 4-Mel isn’t in your beer of choice, other caramel colorings contain ammonia. Other than being gross, it may also cause cancer.4 And because you won’t find it on a label, you may not even know you’re drinking it.

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): HFCS metabolizes into fat faster than other sweeteners and spikes blood sugar levels. Not to mention it can raise triglyceride levels by 200% more than glucose. And though Guinness says they no longer use it, they did for years.5 If you believe them, that is. Once again, you won’t find it on any labels. You have to wonder which other stouts and darker beers—especially the very sweet ones—are using it too.

3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): We’ve told you before how dangerous—and hard to avoid—this substance is. It’s an excitotoxin that enhances flavor in processed foods. But that’s not the only place you’ll find it. Barley malt, malted barley, malt extract, and brewer’s yeast often contain or create MSG during processing.6 And it’s not beer without barley and yeast. Unless your beer is 100% organic—or homebrewed—you have to assume there’s at least one MSG offender in it.

4. Propylene Glycol: This controversial additive is a solvent in many food products. It’s also an ingredient in pharmaceutical drugs, antifreeze, paints, and varnishes. Multiple studies show the dangers—including cell mutation—of ingesting propylene glycol in large quantities. No wonder you won’t find it in European food products.7 Even though you probably won’t get a mega dose from any one beer, having a few too many on a regular basis can add up.

5. Bisphenol-A (BPA): It’s a hormone disruptor that can wreck your endocrine system and cause cancer. Even low exposure can trigger migraines. But BPA doesn’t only show up in plastics and sales receipts. You’ll also find it in beer cans. If you’re cracking open can after can of your favorite brew, you’re likely getting a small amount of BPA in each sip. And though this may not present any immediate dangers, it can lead to serious—even deadly—health problems down the line.

Having a few beers with friends and family can make any summer gathering more enjoyable. But it’s more than the alcohol itself that may put your health in danger when you have one too many. To lower your risk for running into these hidden additives, look for organic beers in bottles. They use natural, quality ingredients—and it usually shows in the taste.

Not sure about the safety of your favorite brew? Call and ask them. Any proud brewer will be happy to tell you how much care goes into their beer. If you can’t get a straight answer, it may be time to find a new beverage.

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