If you’ve the habit of beer drinking regularly you stand a good chance of slowing dementia, research suggests. Scientists have found an ingredient in hops which they claim could slow the progression of degenerative diseases like: Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The results of laboratory experiments have showed that the chemical, called xanthohumol or Xn, could help protect brain cells from oxidative damage associated with dementia. As per the research, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, people who drink beer regularly perhaps could avert the progression of neurological diseases.

beer drinkingDr Jianguo Fang, of Lanzhou University in China, wrote: ‘Hops from dried female clusters of the hop plant are widely used in beers and a few types of soft drinks. ‘In traditional Chinese medicine, hops have been used to treat a variety of ailments for centuries. ‘The presence of a high concentration of Xn in beers might be linked to the epidemiological observation of the beneficial effect of regular beer drinking. ‘Xn has attracted considerable interest because of its multiple pharmacological functions, including anti-oxidation, cardiovascular protection, anticancer and cancer chemoprevention, antivirus, anti-obesity, and anti-inflammation.’

Dr Jianguo’s associates isolated Xn molecules and tested them on brain cells from rats in a string of laboratory experiments. The results pointed out that Xn reduced the level of oxidative stress on the cells, a damaging process considered to be closely related to degenerative diseases. Writing in the journal, they said: ‘As neuronal cells are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress and have limited replenishment during the entire lifespan, increasing evidence has supported oxidative stress as one of the pathogenic causes in the neuropathology of adult neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.’

Stopping the oxidative process ‘could efficiently block or retard the process of such diseases’, they wrote.

Dr Fang’s associates hinted that beer can likely slow down common neurological diseases, however, they also recommended using the molecule in drugs to better target the problems. They referred to a 1998 Canadian study in which men who drank beer routinely showed lower rates of prostate cancer, a trend they argued may also be down to the ‘protective function’ of Xn molecules. ‘Our results suggest that Xn might be a potential candidate for the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders,’ they wrote.

drinking beerBut, British scientists warned that drinking beer too often can have negative effects. Prior research has showed that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to brain tissue loss and that binge drinking is associated with an increased risk of dementia. Furthermore, some studies have concluded that middle-aged people with beer-belly, increase their risk of Alzheimer’s in later life three-fold. Doctors further warned that increasing trends of heavy drinking among the middle class and younger people will bring on a ‘silent dementia epidemic’ within a few years.

Dr Arthur Roach, director of research at Parkinson’s UK, said last night: ‘Many drugs have their origins in natural products. ‘Xanthohumol, the molecule in beer this study focuses on, appears to have protective effects on cells grown in the lab similar to those lost in Parkinson’s. ‘It certainly does not suggest drinking a pint a day could stave off the condition. ‘This is a very early step, and only further work will indicate whether this could lead to new drugs for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.’

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