Researchers in a new study have found that hops, an ingredient heavily used by craft brewers, may actually reduce the damaging effects of alcohol on the liver.

Hops, the flowers of the hops plant, are one of the main ingredients in beer, and are usually used to add flavour – imparting  zesty, bitter, or citric notes, as well as helping to act as a stabilising agent.

It is believed they were originally favoured over other herbs when it was discovered that beers made with hops not only tasted better but were noticed to be less prone to spoilage.

Researchers at a university in Germany have now discovered a third benefit of using hops in beer after finding that they may also help to reduce the damaging effects of alcohol on the liver.

In the study, carried out at Friedrich Schiller University Jena, mice were split into three distinct groups – referred to as a binge-drinking mouse model; with one group given beer with hops, a second given a special beer without hops, and a third given plain alcohol (ethanol).

Hops

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After a period of 12 hours, the team checked the mice, discovering that the group who had been given the beer with hops displayed less fatty build up in their livers than those who had drank the pure alcohol.

They also learned that those mice who had drank the non-hoppy beer showed the same level of build-up as those drinking alcohol.

The researchers concluded that their data suggests that the “hops content in beer is at least in part responsible for the less damaging effects of beer on the liver”.

The study also suggests that the formation of harmful compounds which are known to damage the cells of the liver may also be reduced by hops.

The team believe the findings may also help to explain why, in previous studies, drinking hard liquor was more strongly linked with death from liver disease than drinking beer.

The report came with a warning that though drinking hoppy beer can help reduce the damage to the liver caused by drinking alcohol, it doesn’t not stop the damage completely and so, as with everything, should be enjoyed in moderation.

This is not the first study to hint at health benefits associated with drinking beer, studies by both Harvard Medical School and the American Stroke Association have shown that drinking moderate amounts of beer can cut the risk of having a stroke by up to 50 per cent, when compared with those who don’t drink.

This is due in part to the fact that Ischaemic strokes are the most common type of stroke, these occur when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.

However, drinking beer can cause your arteries to become flexible which improves blood flow significantly, helping to reduce the risk of blood clots forming.

Other studies have found benefits linked with drinking beer include reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s, decreased the chance of type-2 diabetes and even helped protect from heart attacks.

As with the hop study, researchers in all of the studies were keen to add that moderation was key.

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