When people drink beer with alcohol, the reward effect in the brain is just as great as when they unknowingly get alcohol-free beer. This is shown by research from Wageningen University.
The Wageningen researchers are the first in the world to investigate what happens in our brains when drinking alcoholic versus alcohol-free beer. 'Alcohol is known to have an effect on the reward areas in the brain. We wanted to know whether only the taste of beer can do the same, 'explains Dr. Paul Smeets.
The researchers came up with the idea because they had previously carried out a similar study of the effect on soft drinks brains with and without sugar.
Beer in the MRI
The study involved 21 men between 18 and 35 years old who regularly drink beer. Lying in an MRI scanner they were shown the word 'beer' or 'control'. Then the researchers gave them a drink of beer or carbonated water to drink.
The participants did not know that they sometimes received beer without alcohol. The MRI scanner captured the response of the reward areas in their brains.
What turned out? There was no difference in the reaction of the brain during the tasting of beer with or without alcohol. This may mean that people get the same satisfaction from drinking alcohol-free or low-alcohol beer as from drinking beer with alcohol. If the taste is close enough to that of beer with alcohol.
It remains to be investigated whether the response of the brain is also the same in a setting where people know which beer they drink.