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Hops for health

Posted by Richard on June 12, 2006

As you contemplate whether to join us for next Saturday’s "Get Dr. Cutter Drunk" Mini Blogger Bash, be sure to factor in the possible health ramifications of attending. For instance, if you’re a male, you might want to consider that drinking lots of good, hoppy beer (like India Pale Ale or Pilsner) can protect you from both prostate enlargement and prostate cancer, according to Oregon State University researchers:

The research, published in a recent issue of Cancer Letters, shows that xanthohumol, a compound found in hops, inhibits NF-kappaB protein in cells along the surface of the prostate gland, said Emily Ho, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise sciences in OSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences and a researcher with OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute. The protein acts like a signal switch that turns on a variety of animal and human malignancies, including prostate cancer.

"We’ve shown that the addition of xanthohumol in a cell culture blocks the signal of NF-KappaB protein and works to slow down the growth of benign prostatic hyperplasia and malignant prostate cancer cells," Ho said.

Xanthohumol, which belongs to a group of plant compounds called flavonoids, can also trigger programmed cell death, which plays a role in cancer prevention, as uncontrolled cell reproduction is a cause of cancer.

But don’t rush out to stock the refrigerator. Xanthohumol, is present in such small amounts that a person would have to drink more than 17 beers to consume the same amount found effective in the study, Ho said.

I don’t get Ho’s cautionary note. Beers vary by more than an order of magnitude in how much hops — and therefore xanthohumol — they contain, so I’m not sure how meaningful the number 17 is. If that’s 17 Buds or Millers, then you could replace them with 3 or 4 American IPAs — or maybe 1 or 2 double IPAs. Besides, what’s the problem with drinking more than 17 beers? I mean, Ho didn’t specify a time constraint. 🙂

You say you’re not into beer? Well, fear not — according to researchers in Seattle (what is it about scientists in the Pacific Northwest and alcohol research?), you can protect your prostate with some red wine instead:

Drinking a glass of red wine a day may cut a man’s risk of prostate cancer in half, and the protective effect appears to be strongest against the most aggressive forms of the disease, according to a new study led by investigators at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

"We found that men who consumed four or more glasses of red wine per week reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 50 percent," Stanford said. "Among men who consumed four or more 4-ounce glasses of red wine per week, we saw about a 60 percent lower incidence of the more aggressive types of prostate cancer," said Stanford, senior author of the study. "The more clinically aggressive prostate cancer is where the strongest reduction in risk was observed."

As for those of you of the female persuasion, you can benefit from the xanthohumol in beer and the resveratrol in red wine, too:

In more news from the Experimental Biology 2004 meeting, held April 17 to 21 in Washington, DC, S. Pinheiro-Silva, I. Azevedo, and C. Calhau from the Universidade do Porto, in Portugal have shown that the phenolic phytochemicals epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), xanthohumol, and resveratrol slow breast cancer growth in human cell cultures. The compounds are found in tea, beer, and wine respectively, a fact that appears to contradict the results of previous research that established an association between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer in women. …

It was discovered that all of the compounds possessed an inhibitory effect on breast cancer cell growth, with xanthohumol eliciting an antiproliferative effect more rapidly and at a lower concentration than the other compounds.

Of course, alcohol does have negative health consequences, too. So you may want to order some of this. Then, drink up — to your health!

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