Beer ingredient could help fight Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online

While the health-promoting qualities of wine have stolen the spotlight, it isn’t the only alcoholic beverage that can be good for you in some ways, according to a new study appearing in the latest edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

In fact, Jianguo Fang of the Lanzhou University School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and colleagues report that a compound contained in a popular beer ingredient could help protect brain cells from damage, and may actually slow the development of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

They explain in a statement that there is mounting evidence to suggest that oxidative damage to neurons plays a role in the development of diseases that originate in the brain. If scientists can discover a method to protect these cells from such damage, they might be able to slow down or even prevent such diseases.

As it happens, there is one compound found in hops that may be able to do just that. That substance, xanthohumol, has attracted the attention of scientists because of its potential benefits, which include antioxidation, cardiovascular protection and anticancer properties. The study authors set out to determine what effect this substance would have on brain cells.

During their experiments, they synthesized xanthohumol with a total yield of five percent in seven steps, then analyzed its neuroprotective function against oxidative stress-induced damage to neuronal cells in the neuron-like rat pheochromocytoma cell line.

They found that the substance demonstrated “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.

In short, their experiments revealed that the compound found in hops could naturally protect neuronal cells, and could help slow or prevent conditions such as Alzheimer’s. They believe that xanthohumol could be a good candidate for fighting these neurodegenerative disorders.

Last September, scientists from Oregon State University and the Linus Pauling Institute found that the same compound could be used to boost the cognitive function of young mice, but not of older animals. The authors of that study reported that their work was an important advance in the understanding and treatment of age-related memory degradation in humans and other mammals.

Xanthohumol is a flavonoids, a type of compounds found in plants which often gives them their color. Research of flavonoids in blueberries, dark chocolate and wine has become increasingly popular recently due to their apparent nutritional benefits on health issues such as inflammation, cancer, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decay, the Oregon State researchers noted.

Don’t reach for that extra pint of beer just yet, however, as the amount of xanthohumol used in the Oregon State study was far beyond the amount that can be naturally obtained through diet or by drinking alcoholic beverages. Extremely high doses were used were used specifically to enhance the ability of the mice to adapt to changes in the environment, they explained.


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