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Hop it!

10 years ago researchers discovered a potent antioxidant in beer that gives new meaning to the traditional toast: “to your health.”

Antioxidants are substances that protect against the damaging effects of oxygen and nitrogen in the human body.

Hops, used in most beers to provide flavouring, contain substances known as prenylated flavonoids. They are a better source of antioxidants than red wine, green tea and soy products, according to researchers in Oregon State University who run clinical trials on hop extracts.

But to maximise the health benefits of hops, you’d have to drink about 450 litres of beer per day. The most likely outcome for the research, therefore, is a pill that captures their enhanced antioxidant activity.

You can’t cure a disease by drinking beer, but it might just help in the tiniest way. The bottom line is that you’re going to get some, but not preventative, levels of antioxidants by drinking beer.

Different beers have varying levels of antioxidants, ranging from a high of four milligrams per liter for some lager beers to negligible levels in some microbrews.

Previous research indicates that beer has other characteristics as well as antioxidant properties. The current research identifies the heretofore-unknown reason for these healthful qualities and suggests, for the first time, their source: the prenylated flavonoids in hops – specifically, the compound xanthohumol..

Xanthohumol is found exclusively in hops, is six times more effective than antioxidants found in citrus fruits and almost four times more effective than antioxidants found in soy products, Combined with vitamin E, xanthohumol has even greater antioxidant activity.

The compound’s chemical structure could explain its added potency.  As a prenylated flavonoid, xanthohumol has an additional layer of protection that allows it to survive longer in the body than other known flavonoids. A prenyl group has a particular arrangement of carbon and hydrogen molecules that have protective properties.

Flavonoids have been known to be antioxidants for years. Flavonoids are widely sold in pill form in health food stores and supermarkets, where they are presented as nutritional supplements.

Xanthohumol has higher antioxidant activity than previously known flavonoids- It takes less of these to do the same job as others and they do a better job with the same amount.

Xanthohumol protects the body cells from harmful free radicals which damage cells*. Xanthohumol protects them from oxidation induced cell stress and reinforces cell protection*.

* EFSA Article 13.1 botanicals on hold list.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash