Guinness is a popular Irish stout brewed and available all over the world. It originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness at St James’s Gate in Dublin, which remains the largest brewer of stout in the world.
The well known ‘Guinness is good for you’ slogan originates from the 1920s, when Guinness first started advertising. The brewing company took a lead from its consumers and carried out market research in local pubs, where most people interviewed claimed they felt better if they drank a pint of Guinness and said they thought it was good for them.
Spurred on by this, Guinness wrote to every doctor in the UK to encourage them to send in their views. Many doctors responded positively, sending anecdotes and testimonials to their own personal use of Guinness as a tonic, and how they used it with their patients. It was believed to be rich in iron, so doctors would often prescribe Guinness to patients following an operation, or to pregnant women. This support from the medical world strengthened the campaign and it remained central to the Guinness brand for the next 40 years.
Claims that Guinness could be beneficial due to a high level of nutrients and antioxidants persist today, but as with other alcoholic drinks, there is no firm evidence drinking it will improve your health.
Sir Ian Gilmore, the RCP's special adviser on alcohol and chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) says:
There is no evidence to suggest that the health of non-drinkers will improve if they start drinking alcohol. Also, any potential benefit that can be obtained from drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, for example two glasses of wine a week well below most drinkers’ consumption, will be wiped out by intermittent binges.
Guinness themselves have said ‘we never make any medical claims for our drinks’ and any advertising implying improved physical performance is banned in Ireland. Despite this, the slogan remains in popular culture and Guinness is still the most widely drunk alcohol in Ireland today, and one of the most popular in the world.
An original ‘Guinness is good for you’ leaflet and other advertising material were on display in 'This bewitching poison': alcohol and the Royal College of Physicians, 13 January - 28 July 2014.