Looking at microfilm of old newspapers is a window into the past. Often, something will catch your eye and make you want to keep looking for more. Setting a timer for yourself so you don't get lost in the past is a good idea.

Four beer ads from 100 years ago this month constituted a fun squirrel to chase. They were published before Prohibition (1920-1933) and before the current state and federal regulations of the alcohol industry were established.

"Beer Great Toner for Athletes," one Miller High Life ad proclaimed. "DRINK BEER for endurance," said another. "How is your DIGESTION? fine — if you drink BEER!" And my favorite: "Brain Workers Need Beer."

Any of these ads would like great hanging on the wall behind a bar. But it would be illegal to publish ads like these today.

The Federal Alcohol Administration Act — which doesn't administer alcohol to people, despite what its name might imply — regulates the alcohol industry. That includes advertising of alcoholic beverages.

The Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau warns in a brochure that regulations prohibit "health-related statements that are false or misleading." That would seem to include the "Beer Great Toner for Athletes" claim. Sorry, athletes.

If you want the dry wording in the federal regulations, it's Title 27, Part 7, Subpart F, and so forth, until you get to sentences like this: "Implied specific health claims include statements, symbols, vignettes or other forms of communication that suggest, within the context in which they are presented, that a relationship exists between malt beverages, alcohol, or any substance found within the malt beverage, and a disease or health-related condition."

But cheer up, beer drinkers! You can cite a 2002 study by Dr. Norman D. Kaplan of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, which concluded that "the benefits of drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is well beyond contention."

The Wall Street Journal, writing about the issue, said, "male beer drinkers among the group were at a statistically significant lower risk of coronary-artery disease than were men who drank red wine, white wine or spirits."

Beer "may help increase bone density, thus decreasing risk of fractures. And it also could raise by 10% to 20% the so-called 'good cholesterol' levels in some people, thereby helping to ward off coronary-heart disease and related afflictions such as dementia," the article said. "Beer, he adds, is also rich in B-vitamins and folates (a form of water-soluble B-vitamin found in green leafy vegetables), both of which help keep homocysteine blood levels in check. Homocysteine is a chemical that, in elevated amounts, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease."

Politics/History Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.


Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.