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Beer Hops Offer Health Benefits, Drug Promise

By Nick Tate   |   Thursday, 31 Jan 2013 10:01 AM

In new research that suggests ale may be good for what ails you, chemists at the University of Washington have discovered the bitter hops that give beer its distinctive flavor contain substances that have beneficial health effects and may even offer potential for treating diabetes, cancer, and other diseases.

The research, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, suggests that bittering acids, humulones, and other compounds derived from hops during the brewing process could prove useful for development into pharmaceuticals that might be used to treat a range of maladies.
"Excessive beer consumption cannot be recommended to propagate good health,” noted the researchers, led by UW chemistry professor Werner Kaminsky. “[But]  isolated humulones and their derivatives can be prescribed with documented health benefits."
Kaminsky said the team’s confirmed the findings of previous studies that have found compounds in hops and moderate beer consumption can have beneficial effects on diabetes, some forms of cancer, inflammation, and perhaps even weight loss.
But the team’s work also suggested that manipulating the makeup of some of those compounds could make them even more potent weapons against some maladies, setting the stage for using them as medical treatments.
Kaminsky’s work used sophisticated X-ray techniques to determine the exact structure of bittering acids, humulone molecules, and other substances produced from hops in the brewing process. Understanding the underlying chemical structure of those compounds can help researchers develop ways to incorporate those substances into health-promoting new pharmaceuticals, he explained.
Kaminsky’s team worked with researchers from KinDex Therapeutics, a Seattle pharmaceutical firm that funded the work.

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