December 2, 2022
beer hops

beer hops

According to research, beer hops chemicals may help prevent Alzheimer’s.

Hops, the dried, flowering parts of the hop plant used in beer, may have some unique health benefits when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.

A study, published on Oct. 25 in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Neuroscience journal, reports that chemicals extracted from hop flowers may prevent the clumping of amyloid beta proteins in the brain, which researchers say is strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

While the research doesn’t mean one should drink more bitter beer, the researchers said hop compounds could serve as the basis for foods that lessen the risk of neurogenerative disease.

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Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. It’s often marked by memory loss and can seriously impact a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 6 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2020. Barring the development of medical breakthroughs, that number is expected to double by 2050, according to nonprofit the Alzheimer’s Association.

The disease leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain, the Alzheimer’s Association explains on its website. Over time, the brain shrinks, and nearly all of its functions are affected, the nonprofit says.

5 healthy lifestyle habits identified as lowering Alzheimer’s risk combination of physical activity, not smoking, light alcohol consumption, a good diet, and cognitive activities may help lower the risk of the disease by as much as 60 percent, a study found.

Researchers are not fully clear on what causes cell death and tissue loss in Alzheimer’s patients, but plaques built up between nerve cells are a prime suspect. Plaques form when amyloid beta protein pieces clump together.

“Part of the difficulty in treating the disease is the time lag between the start of underlying biochemical processes and the onset of symptoms, with several years separating them,” an American Chemical Society post detailing the new research states. “This means that irreversible damage to the nervous system occurs before one even realizes they may have the disease.

Given the time lag, scientists have focused on preventative strategies for Alzheimer’s disease. One area is in “nutraceuticals,” or foods that have some type of medicinal or nutritional function.

The hop flowers used to flavor beers have been explored as one of these potential nutraceuticals. Recent studies have suggested that bitter hop acids could improve cognitive function, attention, and mood in older adults. Other research has suggested that the plant could interfere with the accumulation of amyloid beta proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease — at least in mice.

In the new study, University of Milano-Bicocca researchers Cristina Airoldi, Alessandro Palmioli, and colleagues sought to investigate which chemical compounds in hops might have this effect.

beer hops

FILE – A man holds a glass of beer in a hop field. (Photo by Armin Weigel/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The researchers tested four common varieties of hops found in beer. They found that the extracts could prevent amyloid beta proteins from clumping in human nerve cells in lab dishes.

The most successful extract was from the Tettnang hop, found in many types of lagers and lighter ales, the team reported.

While the findings in no way justify drinking more bitter beer, the researchers said hop compounds could serve as the basis for foods that lessen the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The research was funded in part by the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MUR).

This story was reported from Cincinnati.

Could beer hops give insight into treating Alzheimer’s?

The bitter taste of hops is used in beer to flavor the many varieties of lagers and ales, but recently, researchers have found its additional quality: beer hops might have unique health benefits for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

This is because the chemicals extracted from hop flowers can, in lab dishes, inhibit the clumping of amyloid beta proteins, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

What is Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer’s is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease, which often causes memory loss and personality changes in older adults.

Part of the difficulty in treating the disease is the time lag between the start of underlying biochemical processes and the onset of symptoms, with several years separating them.

This entails that damage to the nervous system frequently occurs before people can even realize they may have the disease.

How do ‘nutraceuticals’ affect the condition? In order to expand research into the prevention of the disease, researchers, who have published their work in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, investigated “nutraceuticals” – which are foods that have some type of medicinal or nutritional function.

The nutraceuticals used in this research were beer hops, where hop flowers, which are used to flavor beers, indicate a potential interference with the accumulation of amyloid beta proteins associated with Alzheimer’s.

Looking at which chemical compounds in hops had this effect, the researchers created and characterized extracts of four common varieties of hops using a method similar to that used in the brewing process. In tests, they found that the extracts had antioxidant properties and could prevent amyloid beta proteins from clumping in human nerve cells.

beer hops

Piermichele Malucchi The Tettnang hop shows aggregation-inhibiting activity most successful extract was from the Tettnang hop, found in many types of lagers and lighter ales.

The extract of the Tettnang beer hop was separated into fractions, the one containing a high level of polyphenols showed the most potent antibiotic and aggregation-inhibiting activity. It also promoted processes that allow the body to clear out misfolded, neurotoxic proteins.

When testing the Tettnang extract in a C. elegans model, researchers found that it protected the worms from AD-related paralysis, though the effect was not very pronounced.

The researchers say that although this work may not justify drinking more bitter brews, it shows that hop compounds could serve as the basis for nutraceuticals that combat the development of AD.

Beer For Health? Hop Compounds May Offer Protection Against Alzheimer’s

  • Researchers looked at four hops varieties
  • Compounds in hops inhibited protein clumping linked to Alzheimer’s disease
  • Results show hop’s potential as a nutraceutical for the disease

Beer isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when people think of foods and drinks that may be beneficial for health. But a team of researchers has now found that a compound in beer hops may offer protection against Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

In their work, published in the American Chemical Society’s ACS Chemical Neuroscience, researchers had a closer look at the “chemical variability” of four common hop varieties: Cascade, Saaz, Tettnang, and Summit.

One of the factors that make AD so difficult to treat is the “time lag” of several years between the disease’s biological processes and the onset of symptoms, ACS explained in a news release. By the time the person realizes they may have the disease, “irreversible damage” may have already occurred.

“In this scenario, the prevention of AD rather than treatment can represent an important strategy,” the researchers wrote. “Among the preventive interventions, diet is one of the most promising ones because the intake of foods or nutraceuticals containing natural molecules can interfere with key biochemical events underlying aging in both physiological and pathological conditions.”

“Nutraceuticals” are foods or parts of food that have medical or health benefits. And hop, one of the main ingredients of beer, can interrupt the collection of amyloid beta proteins linked with AD. Further, previous studies showed that consuming bitter hop acids can improve “cognitive function, attention, and mood in older adults.”

Researchers have now found the hop extracts actually had antioxidant properties and may prevent the clumping of amyloid beta proteins in human nerve cells, with the “most successful” variety being Tettnang.

“(W)e fractionated the extracts to identify a pool of molecular components mainly responsible for their neuroprotective action,” the researchers wrote. “According to our data, they are feruloyl and p-coumaroylquinic acids, flavan-3-of glycosides, and procyanidins.”

The hop extracts also prevented cell death due to oxidative stress, the researchers noted. And when they tested the Tettnang extract activity on a C. elegans worm model, it actually protected the creatures from “AD-related paralysis,” although the effect was “not very pronounced.”

While this doesn’t mean people have an excuse to drink a lot of their favorite hoppy beer, it shows hop’s potential as a nutraceutical for AD.

“Our results show that hop is a source of bioactive molecules with synergistic and multitarget activity against the early events underlying AD development,” the researchers added. “We can therefore think of its use for the preparation of nutraceuticals useful for the prevention of this pathology.”

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