Scientists Recommend 120 Gallons of Beer Per Day
By Adam Marcus, HealthSCOUT Reporter
It's news that would make Homer Simpson say "No Duh!": The chief ingredient in beer apparently helps guard against heart problems, cancer and even Alzheimer's disease. But there's a catch. (Of course.) The molecule is so rare that a person would have to drink about 120 gallons of beer -- or roughly 1,300 12-ounce bottles -- every day to reap the benefits. A more likely option (and, obviously, a more survivable one) would be to distill the compound -- a high-test anti-oxidant -- into a pill that people could take as a supplement, the researchers say. A report on their findings appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a publication of the American Chemical Society. Scientists recently learned that beer, particularly lagers, have anti-oxidant molecules. Hops, the herb that gives beer its main flavor, has a number of these chemicals. One of them, xanthohumol (pronounced zan-tho-HUGH-mol), had been shown in previous studies to possess cancer-fighting properties, at least in the lab. That work suggested that the molecule was a strong anti-oxidant, too, says Donald Buhler, an Oregon State University biochemist who helped discover xanthohumol's anti-cancer effects. So, in the latest study, Buhler and his colleagues isolated a number of anti-oxidants in hops and tested how well they prevented the oxidation of human low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol. The researchers found that xanthohumol is six times more powerful an anti-oxidant than those found in citrus fruits, and four times stronger than those in soy foods. And when paired with vitamin E, another anti-oxidant, xanthohumol becomes even more potent, they say, preventing the oxidation of LDL, which is known as _bad_ cholesterol. Xanthohumol, which belongs to a family of compounds called flavonoids, proved to be even better at protecting LDL against oxygen damage than the anti-oxidants in green tea and red wine, each of which has been touted for its protective powers. "It's certainly one of the most active" anti-oxidants, at least for LDL cholesterol, Buhler says. Other molecules might fare better in different tests, he says. Anti-oxidants have a knack for doing great work in the lab and in animals, but failing in studies of people. But Cristobal Miranda, who's also an Oregon State biochemist and co-author of the study, says additional work by his group has shown that xanthohumol appears to be absorbed well by the body -- suggesting, he says, that it will have clinical benefit. It also breaks down into two more anti-oxidants, multiplying its protective potential, Miranda says. What To Do The problem, Buhler says, is that xanthohumol is such a small component of hops that it doesn't make sense to rely on beer to get it. It would be better, he says, to increase the xanthohumol content of hops, presumably through selective breeding or genetic engineering, or to make a nonalcoholic brew that's rich in the compound. But the best method in Buhler's mind would be to synthesize the molecule into a pill. "And if you want to drink a little beer with it, that's fine," he says.