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03.2008

Massachusetts Beverage Business

archivedHealth

BEER that BATTLES CANCER

Who would have thought of beer as a cancer fighter? Whether you prefer Schlitz or Chamay, drinking a cold beer just may hold the key to staving off some forms of cancer. A compound found only in hops called xanthohumol shows toxicity to human breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancers. The compound inhibits a family of enzymes commonly known as cytochromes P45O that can activate the cancer process. Xanthohumol also induces activity in a “quinine reductase” process that helps the body detoxify carcinogens and inhibits tumor growth at an early stage. Researchers hope hops might be produced or genetically altered to have higher levels of xanthohumol specifically for its anti-cancer properties. Because some beers contain more hops than others, they may have higher levels of xanthohumol. Lager and pilsner beers commonly sold in domestic beers have fairly low levels of the compound, but some porter, stout and ale brews have much higher levels. “Health” beer is being developed in Germany with higher levels of xanthohumol, although supplements of the compound contain the highest levels.

Xanthohumol may help stop cancer, but its health benefits don’t stop there. The compound appears to have a role as a powerful antioxidant – even more than vitamin E. It has also been shown to reduce the oxidation of LDL, or bad cholesterol, reducing one’s risk of heart disease. There are other chemical compounds in hops that have been shown to provide benefits to humans. Prenylflavonoids are potent phytoestrogens that may prevent or treat post-menopausal hot flashes and osteoporosis. However, clinical trials of these effects have not yet been carried out. Some companies aren’t even waiting for trials – hop-containing herbal supplements are being marketed for breast enlargement in women without waiting for tests to verify their safety or effectiveness.

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