Cheers to that: IPAs and hoppy beers may LOWER the risk of Alzheimer’s, study suggests
- Beer hops can prevent brain protein clumping, which can lead to Alzheimer’s
- It is the most common cause of the widespread, degenerative disease dementia
- The researchers said natural preventative strategies trump treating symptoms
Hoppy beers may reduce the risk of dementia, a study suggests.
Chemicals which give IPAs their unique bitter flavor prevented the clumping of protein plaques strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease in lab dishes.
All beers are made using hop flower extracts, which contain natural antioxidants believed to protect cells in the body.
Tettnang, a type of hop grown in Germany and found in amber and light lagers, was the best at clearing the clumps of protein.
But the Italian researchers warn their findings might not justify drinking more beer, as alcohol in excess is a huge risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
This is because heavy drinking accelerates shrinkage of the brain’s white matter, which sends signals between different parts of the brain, leading to cognitive issues.
The researchers from Milan found that Tettnang hops were the best at stopping proteins clumps in the brain
Alzheimer’s is an incurable neurodegenerative disease, and the most common form of dementia.
It is characterized by abnormal levels of sticky deposits called amyloid beta, a naturally occurring protein. They clump together to form plaques that collect between neurons and disrupt cell function.
More than 5 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s in the US, where it is the sixth leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.
Researchers from the University of Milano-Bicocca looked at ‘nutraceuticals,’ foods that serve a medicinal or nutritional function.
They focused on hop flowers which previous research suggested could interfere with the buildup of amyloid beta proteins in the brain.
The team examined four common varieties of hops using a similar method brewers use to create beer.
They then exposed the hops to amyloid proteins and human nerve cells.
Researchers found the extracts had antioxidant properties and were able to block amyloid beta proteins from clumping around cells.
The hop extracts also triggered renewal processes called autophagic pathways – where the body breaks down and reuses old cell parts to increase efficiency.
The top-performing hop was Tettnang, which is used in many different lagers and lighter ales.
Tettnang encouraged the clearing out of defunct proteins.
This is due to high levels of the antioxidant polyphenols, also found in fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, which had the strongest medicinal effect.
The researchers said that while their findings may not justify drinking more beer, it shows that hops could be the basis for foods that will lessen the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Hops are also found in herbal teas and soft drinks.
The study was published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, in which build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.
This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink.
More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the 6th leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.
As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.
That includes memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason.
The progress of the disease is slow and gradual.
On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live for ten to 15 years.
- Loss of short-term memory
- Behavioral changes
- Mood swings
- Difficulties dealing with money or making a phone call
- Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
- Becoming anxious and frustrated over inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior
- Eventually lose ability to walk
- May have problems eating
- The majority will eventually need 24-hour care
Source: Alzheimer’s Association