Category: Newsworthy Notes

Originally published here.

Regularly drinking beer could help slow dementia, research suggests. Scientists have discovered an ingredient in hops which they think could slow the progression of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In laboratory experiments they found that the chemical, called xanthohumol or Xn, could help protect brain cells from oxidative damage associated with dementia. The research, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, suggested that people who regularly drink beer might be better able to ward off the progression of neurological diseases. Dr Jianguo Fang, of Lanzhou University in China, wrote: “Hops from dried female clusters of the hop plant are widely used in beers and a few types of soft drinks. “In traditional Chinese medicine, hops have been used to treat a variety of ailments for centuries. “The presence of a high concentration of Xn in beers might be linked to the epidemiological observation of the beneficial effect of regular beer drinking. “Xn has attracted considerable interest because of its multiple pharmacological functions, including anti-oxidation, cardiovascular protection, anticancer and cancer chemoprevention, antivirus, anti-obesity, and anti-inflammation.” His team isolated Xn molecules and tested them on brain cells from rats in a series of laboratory experiments.

They found that Xn reduced the level of oxidative stress on the cells, a damaging process thought to be closely linked to degenerative diseases. Writing in the journal, they said: “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.” Stopping the oxidative process ‘could efficiently block or retard the process of such diseases”, they wrote. Fang’s team suggested that beer might slow down common neurological diseases, but they also suggested the molecule could be used in drugs to better target the problems. They cited a 1998 Canadian study in which men who regularly drank beer were found to have lower rates of prostate cancer, a trend they suggested may also be down to the protective function of Xn molecules. “Our results suggest that Xn might be a potential candidate for the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders,” they wrote. British scientists, however, warned against drinking beer too often. Previous research has suggested that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to brain tissue loss and that binge drinking is associated with an increased risk of dementia. And separate studies have concluded that developing a beer belly in middle age boosts the risk of Alzheimer’s in later life three-fold. Doctors have warned that increasing trends of heavy drinking among the middle class and younger people will lead to a “silent dementia epidemic” within a few years.

Dr Arthur Roach, director of research at Parkinson’s UK, said last night: “Many drugs have their origins in natural products.”

“Xanthohumol, the molecule in beer this study focuses on, appears to have protective effects on cells grown in the lab similar to those lost in Parkinson’s.

“It certainly does not suggest drinking a pint a day could stave off the condition.

“This is a very early step, and only further work will indicate whether this could lead to new drugs for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

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Updated: August 16, 2017