I often find that you can’t pick up a newspaper or read a website without seeing the latest ‘super-food’ (I am reliably informed that last year it was kale).
Researchers from Lanzhou University, China, State Key Laboratory of Applied Organic Chemistry and College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering have found that a compound (xanthohumol) contained in beer could help protect our brain cells from damage, and slow the development of degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
But before we go any further with this story, I feel duty bound to tell you that drinking beer isn’t the answer, alcohol itself damages brain cells and in your standard pint of beer there isn’t enough xanthohumol to have an impact.
This work, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (Xanthohumol, a Polyphenol Chalcone Present in Hops, Activating Nrf2 Enzymes To Confer Protection against Oxidative Damage in PC12 Cells) pulls the hops used to produce beer into the spotlight.
So the team, led by Jianguo Fang, set out to find a way to protect brain cells from this type of damage to enable us to slow down or even prevent these diseases.
Jianguo and the group used a compound found in hops that may be able to help protect the brain cells. Xanthohumol has attracted the attention of many researchers because of its potential benefits, which include antioxidation, cardiovascular protection and anticancer properties.
Xanthohumol is a flavonoid, a type of compound found in plants, which often gives them their colour. Research of flavonoids in blueberries, dark chocolate and wine has become increasingly popular due to their apparent nutritional benefits on health issues.
Jianguo’s experiments worked to synthesise xanthohumol in seven steps, the team then analysed its neuroprotective function against oxidative stress-induced damage to neuronal cells in the neuron-like rat pheochromocytoma cell line.
The team was able to show ‘moderate free radical-scavenging capacity’ in lab conditions, and that pretreating those neuron-like rat cells with xanthohumol at submicromolar concentrations ‘significantly upregulates a panel of phase II cytoprotective genes as well as the corresponding gene products,’ including glutathione, thioredoxin and thioredoxin reductase.
Essentially this means that the xanthohumol found in beer hops could protect brain cells and hopefully slow conditions like Alzheimer’s.
They believe that xanthohumol could be a good candidate for fighting neurodegenerative disorders.
I wish the team good luck in their work and hope that this can bring about the breakthrough that we are looking for.