As my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina has been named “Beer City USA” several times in the past few years, there’s hardly a week that goes by without someone asking me, “Is beer good for your brain?” While beer is not an ideal substitute for your healthier hydrating agents (such as water), a few compounds contained in this beverage are showing great promise as treatment options for everything from gut health to brain function.
Hops for Your Health
Some of the most interesting research into the possible health benefits of beer has focused on one particular ingredient: hops. Brewers have been flavoring beer with the bitter tasting flowers of the hops vine for centuries. The first known record of it dates back to 822 AD, when a Benedictine abbot named Adalard wrote about using hops in the brewing process at his monastery in Corbie, France. Even before hops were added to beer, people were taking the herb as medicine. Herbal healers have long recommended hops as a natural remedy for insomnia, anxiety, and the symptoms of menopause. New scientific research into the compounds contained in hops has revealed even more possible medical applications.
What’s In It?
Recent research published in Brain Behavioral Research identifies a compound found in hops, xanthohumol, as having significant brain enhancement properties when given to young mice in high doses. More specifically, it has been shown to increase cognitive flexibility, a key factor in higher cognitive function.
Xanthohumol is a flavonoid, a type of pigment found in foods. It is well established that flavonoids are more than just brain protective. In fact, they have long been shown to reduce inflammation, act as antioxidants and antibacterial agents, promote gut health, and help lower risks of cancer and heart disease. The fact that this particular compound was isolated from hops and beer makes it slightly more attractive to study these days than, say, blueberries or yellow bell peppers given America’s obsession with everything beer.
To Drink Or Not To Drink?
Whether you prefer IPA, porter, or sour, you could drink beer every moment of every day and still not even come close to consuming the amount of xanthohumol necessary to see the positive effects shown in this study. In fact, one study author estimated a person would have to drink 2000 liters of beer per day to reach the levels used in their research. That would make any Oktoberfest take a turn for the worse very quickly. The mice in the study were given xanthohumol in dietary supplement form, not beer.
Other Areas Of Promise
In addition to some of the additional benefits outlined above, certain extracts from hops have also been shown to reduce the signature plaques that develop in Alzheimer’s disease. They are also being used and studied as sedatives and sleep aids, estrogen modulators, blood sugar regulators, and facilitators of pest control and dental health.
Raise Your Pint Glass To The Future
As you can see, the possible applications for hops and the compounds contained within them are virtually limitless. We are in the absolute infancy of study into the many promising uses of these substances (and similar ones such as cannabinoids). So beer may not make you smarter, but you can enjoy your favorite beverage knowing we are on the forefront of this amazing journey into studying the protective effects of hops on our brains and bodies. But please, limit your consumption to considerably less than 2000 liters per day!
About the Author:
Dr. Michael Trayford is a board certified Chiropractic Neurologist and founder of APEX Brain Centers. APEX Brain Centers use cutting edge techniques and technology to optimize brain function. Their program is safe, effective, research-backed and offers hope to people who are having neurological issues. Dr. Michael Trayford and his team offer help for people suffering from concussions, memory loss, Alzheimers and ADD Brain Training at APEX Brain Centers. Learn more about Brain Training at the APEX Brain Centers website.