Science Has Great News for Beer Lovers

Science Has Great News for Beer Lovers
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

"To alcohol: The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems." This immortal quotation by Homer Simpson highlights the positive and negative affects of adult beverages, but a new study may add one more point to the "solution to" column: A nice, hoppy beer can help shield your brain from neurological damage.

The American Chemical Society suggests that one of the substances found in beer could have neuroprotective qualities, helping guard brain cells against degenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

Just in time for the Super Bowl: Xanthohumol, a compound found in hops, has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and oxidative qualities, as well as promotes cardiovascular health. In a study published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientist Jianguo Fang and his team isolated molecules of the substance and tested them on lab rat's brain cells, discovering that the xanthohumol reduced oxidative stress.

That's particularly important because oxidative stress, an imbalance between the generation of free radicals and the body's capacity to detoxify them, is a harmful process thought to contribute to neurological degradation.

Fang's team said their findings indicated xanthohumol could "protect neuronal cells and potentially help slow the development of brain disorders," according to a press release. Scientists could one day use the substance as the basis of novel treatments for such diseases, helping stall their progression in time.

Still, older patients are not advised to begin drinking to avoid dementia or memory problems. According to George Grossberg of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, patients ages 65 or older who go from teetotaler to drinking actually experience more memory problems than before.

Other benefits: Fang and his colleagues are the latest to report on the healthy side effects of beer. In March 2014, scientists discovered that marinating meat in dark beer dramatically reduces the number of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that form on the meat during the grilling process. Light drinking is associated with improved cardiovascular health, and one or two drinks can help people relax and become more creative.

But drink in moderation, since any amount of alcohol consumption is linked to a slightly elevated risk of cancer and heavy drinking is linked to a bevy of problems from cirrhosis to heart disease. And while the protective effects of xanthohumol could one day help us beat neurodegenerative conditions, Parkinson's U.K. research director Arthur Roach told the Daily Mail that beer drinkers shouldn't expect their habit to improve their odds just yet. 

For now, that crisp pint will have to be judged on its own qualities — but getting a nice, hoppy one like an IPA probably couldn't hurt.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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