Ingredients in beer are claimed to combat inflammation and obesity Researchers working with Prof. Dr. Claus Hellerbrand at the Institute of Biochemistry at FAU, Erlangen, have received a grant worth 60,000 euros from the European Foundation for Alcohol Research and the European Brewery Convention for their research project investigating the anti-inflammatory properties of beer ingredients.
‘Drink beer and live for a hundred years’ goes a saying in Italian, which may prove to be more accurate than you might expect. Beer contains xanthohumol and iso-alpha-acids. According to studies published by the working group led by Prof. Hellerbrand, xanthohumol slows down the accumulation of fat in the liver caused by obesity and unhealthy eating habits and prevents scarring of the liver. It also kills liver cancer cells and prevents weight gain in spite of eating too much food. Iso-alpha-acids have a positive effect on health as well. They inhibit liver damage and have a positive influence on fat and glucose metabolism.
Working together with the working group led by Prof. Dr. Ina Bergheim from Universität Wien, the researchers also discovered that both substances have a particularly positive influence on biological processes when they are used in combination. Together, for example, their anti-inflammatory properties are even more effective. Even very small concentrations considerably curb the production of inflammatory factors in liver and blood cells. After receiving funding, the research project is now to investigate whether further disease mechanisms such as diabetes or cancer can be combated more effectively using a combination of the two substances. The researchers also hope to succeed in decoding the mechanisms behind this positive combined effect.
Hops – yellow gold
Xanthohumol belongs to the group of plant polyphenols – the aromatic compounds which provide plants with their colour and taste. The substance is found exclusively in hops, giving the hop flowers their characteristic yellow colour. Hops have an important role to play in brewing beer, although xanthohumol is largely broken down during the process. Only a small fraction of the substance is left in the beer itself. A further substance found in hops are bitter acids, which give the beer its characteristic taste. One group of these are the alpha-acids, which are converted to iso-alpha-acids after being heated as part of the brewing process.
One disadvantage: alcohol
At present, the only way people consume xanthohumol and iso-alpha-acids is by enjoying beer, although it only contains a relatively low concentration of the substances. Beer cannot be seen as medicine, however. After all, it contains alcohol. ‘It is plausible, however, that a positive effect may be gained by drinking alcohol-free beer or other food or drink containing hops such as hops lemonade or hops tea. Xanthohumol and iso-alpha-acids seem very promising for treating or preventing liver damage caused by obesity,’ Hellerbrand explains.