Page last updated: Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Beer ingredient may fight prostate cancer
A main ingredient in beer may help prevent prostate cancer and enlargement, according to a new study. The ingredient is currently present in very small amounts.

Oregon State University researchers say the compound xanthohumol, found in hops, inhibits a specific protein in the cells along the surface of the prostate gland. The protein acts like a signal switch that turns on a variety of animal and human cancers, including prostate cancer. Cancer typically results from uncontrolled cell reproduction and growth. Xanthohumol belongs to a group of plant compounds called flavonoids, which can trigger the programmed cell death that controls growth, researchers say.

Xanthohumol was first discovered in hops in 1913, but its health effects were not known until about 10 years ago, when it was first studied by Fred Stevens, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry at OSU’s College of Pharmacy. Last fall, Stevens published an update on xanthohumol in the journal Phytochemistry that drew international attention. Stevens says it possible for drug companies to develop pills containing concentrated doses of the flavonoid found in the hops used to brew beer. He also says researchers could work to increase the xanthohumol content of hops.

There are already a number of food supplements on the market containing hops, and scientists in Germany have developed a beer that contains 10 times the amount of xanthohumol as traditional brews. The drink is being marketed as a healthy beer, but research is still under way to determine if it has any effect against cancer.

Source: Colgate EC et al. Xanthohumol, a prenylflavonoid derived from hops induces apoptosis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation in prostate epithelial cells. Cancer Lett 2006.

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