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Compound in hops may help metabolic syndrome, study says

Levels of the compound found in beer are far too low to benefit health, but researchers say if concentrated it may lower cholesterol and blood sugar, and slow weight gain.

By Stephen Feller
Compound in hops may help metabolic syndrome, study says
The compound xanthohumol, found in hops and beer, was shown to reduce biomarkers of the metabolic syndrome and lower weight gain, researchers at Oregon State University found in a recent study. Photo by Kishivan/Shutterstock

CORVALLIS, Ore., April 19 (UPI) -- A compound found in hops, an ingredient that flavors beer, may lower cholesterol and blood sugar, and reduce weight gain, according to researchers.

Xanthohumol, a compound found in hops and present in beer, improved health indicators for metabolic syndrome and reduced weight gain in mice, researchers at Oregon State University report in a study published in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

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Part of the benefit comes from the compound lowering levels of PCSK9 in blood, which helps clear LDL, or "bad," cholesterol. PCSK9 is the target of a group of expensive new cholesterol-lowering drugs approved in 2015 by the FDA, as well as a vaccine with a dramatic effect on cholesterol levels in monkeys.

For the study, researchers fed groups of mice a high-fat diet, treating them with 0, 30 or 60 milligrams of xanthohumol. Mice on the 60 milligram dose had bad cholesterol levels drop by 80 percent, insulin levels decrease by 42 percent and levels of a biomarker for inflammation went down by 78 percent.

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All groups of mice were fed the same diet, but those on xanthohumol gained less weight -- those on the highest amount of the compound gained 22 percent less weight than mice not treated with it.

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"This is the first time we've seen one compound with the potential to address so many health problems," Cristobal Miranda, a research assistant professor at Oregon State University, said in a press release. "These were very dramatic improvements."

Although xanthohumol is present in beer, the researchers said if it has the same effect on humans the levels are far too low in the beverage. Sixty milligrams per day for mice translates to 350 milligrams per day for a 154-pound person, the researchers said, which would require a person to drink more than 28 kegs of beer per day -- an impossible task.

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"Work is still needed to further demonstrate the safety of high doses of xanthohumol, but dosages 15 to 30 times higher than we used have already been given to animals with no apparent problems," said Fred Stevens, a professor in the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy. "After further study, this might provide an effective treatment for metabolic syndrome at a very low cost."

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