The untold truth of O'Doul's non-alcoholic beer

O'Doul's may have the same rich, malty flavor as an ordinary pint of beer, but its long-standing popularity comes not only from its taste but from its non-alcoholic nature. Also called "near beer," it is a popular alternative for people who love the experience of drinking a beer but don't want to consume the alcohol that usually comes along with it. 

However, despite its designation as a non-alcoholic beer, O'Doul's does contain a small amount of alcohol. It has an alcohol content of about 0.4 percent, according to Lakeview Health. The current law states non-alcoholic beer is permitted to have an alcohol content of up to 0.5 percent while still maintaining the "alcohol-free" label, according to Anaheim Lighthouse. The body's metabolism is able to break down such a low amount of alcohol almost immediately, so the alcohol has no time to enter with the brain and bloodstream, where it can cause intoxication.

"Near beer" is not safe for everyone

However, while it is almost impossible to become intoxicated by drinking O'Doul's, it still may be a good idea for anyone who needs to completely avoid alcohol to stay away from the drink. Pregnant or nursing women, for example, are advised against consuming even "near beer" because there is no safe threshold of alcohol content for fetuses or infants to come into contact with, according to The Arbor.

People who suffer from certain medical conditions, such as fatty liver or pancreatitis, also should not drink O'Doul's. Even the small amount of alcohol in the brew can be taxing for the body to process, and can still cause harm to the liver. Furthermore, some non-alcoholic beverages can contain more alcohol than the amount that is stated on the label. According to a study published in the Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 13 out of a sample of 45 non-alcoholic drinks – almost 30 percent of the sample – contained more alcohol than the quantity listed.

O'Doul's is not advised for people in recovery

Non-alcoholic beer is also not a good substitute for anyone who has alcohol dependency issues. Even a low alcohol content may present a problem for someone with a physical dependency on the substance, and this can be worsened if the alcohol content is actually higher than the percentage that is listed on the bottle.

Additionally, a significant portion of recovery involves breaking away from a former lifestyle of partying and alcohol addiction. While drinking an O'Doul's might not get you drunk, it may encourage the continuation of old habits that could be harmful to a successful recovery process. Engaging in behaviors – such as partying, going to bars, or drinking socially – that were common before sobriety can often trigger a relapse.

Therefore, O'Doul's, or any other non-alcoholic beer, is generally not recommended for people in recovery, people who experience issues with alcohol, or anyone who has been advised to stay away from alcohol entirely.