Green Beer – What’s in it, and is it bad for you?

Everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and for many Americans, that means toasting with a glass of green beer in celebration. But what are you really drinking when you sip on that familiar tasting but shamrock-colored elixir? If your beer has that iconic Kelly-green hue, then the answer is a hefty dose of food coloring. But food coloring is in so many foods, it couldn’t possibly be dangerous, right? Well, unfortunately, it can have some negative effects that are worth knowing about. Of course, drinking green beer one day per year may not be enough to see a lasting impact. Here’s a closer look at what you should know.

You may be getting lower-quality beer.

When you order green beer at a bar, the bartender may serve it with a smile, because it’s often lower-quality light beer sold with a hefty upcharge. Though this isn’t necessarily damaging to your health, it could lead to overindulging, because the beer has lower alcohol content, so you might feel inclined to drink a lot more of it.

You will consume a lot of food dye.

Interestingly, most green beer is dyed blue, not green, to balance with the natural yellow tone of the beer. Still, it takes a lot of food dye to achieve the right color, and hefty doses of artificial food coloring have been linked to a wide range of health problems, and some even have a carcinogenic effect. Though the most harmful food dyes are out of commission, there are many that have not been tested enough to have a list of known effects, so it’s best to use caution or find a bar specializing in food-based coloring for their festive beers.

You probably aren’t risking lasting damage, though.

If green beer is an unmissable part of your St. Paddy’s day fun, fear not. You can drink a glass or two without a high risk of lasting damage – but remember – there’s a much more immediate effect to counteract: Tooth staining. After a green beer, drink a full glass of water and rinse with mouthwash, since the dye can quickly bond with tooth enamel and leave your pearly whites looking more emerald.

We know you may not make the best decisions for your health on St. Patrick’s Day, but as luck would have it, MeMD can be there for you the morning after with convenient, on-demand medical exams.