One of the oldest and most consumed alcoholic beverages, beer has served many roles since it was first brewed nearly 7,000 years ago. It's been featured in religious ceremonies, praised in literature, and prized for its medicinal properties. What the ancients suspected about the health benefits of beer, modern-day science continues to prove.

Ironically, heavy drinking can damage the same organs that moderate consumption (about two drinks a day for men and one for women) can benefit.  So it's important to always drink in moderation-and avoid alcohol altogether if you have a history of substance abuse. Here are six ways that a pint a day can keep the doctor away:

Cuts cancer risk. A 2001 study from the University of Prague reported that hop flavonoids found in beer share a structure similar to estrogen and can therefore mimic it, which may lower the risk of hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer. They have also shown promise in relieving symptoms of menopause.

Promotes strong bones. According to researchers at Tufts University, beer contains high levels of silicon, which help speed the delivery of calcium and other minerals to bone tissue, especially in men and young women.

Increases mental capacity. A study from Harvard University published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that moderate beer consumption contributed to increased mental capacity in older women. In addition, a 2003 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association claimed that individuals 65 and older who drank one to six drinks a week were less likely to suffer from dementia.

Helps the heart.  Researchers at Rockefeller University concluded that alcohol increases levels of high-density lipoproteins, the good cholesterol that transports excess cholesterol to the liver for disposal and bestows the circulatory system with anti-inflammatory and anti-clogging capabilities. In addition, a 2006 study conducted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Harvard School of Public Health found that healthy men who drank moderately saw a 40 to 60 percent decrease in heart attack risk.

Maintains healthy cell function. Researchers in the Netherlands found that beer drinkers had higher levels of vitamin B6, which plays a crucial role in the metabolism of red blood cells and the synthesis of neurotransmitters vital for normal brain function.

Keeps stones away. Perhaps because of its high magnesium content, beer has been shown to reduce the incidence of gall stones and kidney stones; according to researchers in Finland, the consumption of one beer a day helped cut the risk of kidney stones by 40 percent.