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Could beer really fend off Alzheimer's disease?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Compound in hops could help prevent neurological diseases.

According to scientists, hops in beer could be more healthful than previously known, especially for protecting the brain from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.


Findings reported in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggest xanthohumol found in hops might slow the progression of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The beer compound might even have anti-cancer properties, based on preliminary lab studies carried out by Jianguo Fang and colleagues.

The researchers say though wine has been touted for its health benefits the compound found in hops has anti-obesity, cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-viral health benefits. Xanthohumol, also known as Xn is present in high amounts in beer.

'As neuronal cells are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress and have limited replenishment during the entire lifespan, increasing evidence has supported oxidative stress as one of the pathogenic causes in the neuropathology of adult neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease," the authors write.

Hops have been studied for medicinal use in the past, but only on a limited basis. Some of the health benefits suggested include:

  • Easing menopausal symptoms
  • Fibromyalgia treatment
  • Treating insomnia

The study

For their study, researchers isolated brain cells in the lab. Preliminary results show the compound in beer seems to have a protective effect on neurons that are the signalling cells in the brain.

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Does the study show a pint of beer a day could keep Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease from developing or progressing? The answer is no. But the study does show there might be multiple health benefits from xanthohumol that is found in hops that could be developed as a supplement or pharmaceutical.

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"Xanthohumol, a Polyphenol Chalcone Present in Hops, Activating Nrf2 Enzymes to Confer Protection against Oxidative Damage in PC12 Cells"
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

"A first prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the use of a standardized hop extract to alleviate menopausal discomforts."
Heyerick A1, Vervarcke S, Depypere H, Bracke M, De Keukeleire D.

Milligan SR, Kalita JC, Pocock V, Van De Kauter V, Stevens JF, Deinzer ML, Rong H, De Keukeleire D. "The endocrine activities of 8-prenylnaringenin and related hop (Humulus lupulus L.) flavonoids." J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000

Salter S, Brownie S. "Treating primary insomnia - the efficacy of valerian and hops." Aust Fam Physician. 2010 Jun;39(6):433-7.

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