How Beer Could Help Treat Obesity

Xanthohumol, a compound found in hops and beer, helped mice reduce metabolic syndrome weight gain, Oregon State University study says.


Beer doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to weight loss, but a new discovery about hops might change that.

According to a new study from Oregon State University in Corvallis, xanthohumol, a compound inside hops--the plant that causes the bitterness in beer and preserves it with its antibacterial properties--could reverse symptoms of metabolic syndrome while helping with weight maintenance.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of medical conditions that increase the chance of heart disease and other diseases such as diabetes or stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A person living with high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, for example, would be considered living with metabolic syndrome.

In this study on 48 mice, the study authors found that doses of xanthohumol could reverse such risk factors and even slow weight loss.

"This is the first time we've seen one compound with the potential to address so many health problems," lead study author Cristobal Miranda, an assistant professor at OSU's Linus Pauling Institute, said in a press release. "These were very dramatic improvements."

The study authors divided the mice into three equal groups and fed them a high-fat diet along with zero, 30 or 60 milligrams of xanthohumol per kilogram of bodyweight per day for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 weeks, not only did weight gain slow down, but mice on 60 mg dose of the compound lowered their cholesterol by 78 percent, insulin levels by 42 percent and leptin levels by 41 percent.

Presence of the small protein interleukin-6, which cells release during inflammation, was also lowered by 80 percent. Excessive inflammation can also be a cause of heart disease as it increases plaque in the heart.

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

However, no need to head for the bar yet--an equivalent dose of xanthohumol for humans would require drinking 3,500 pints of beer. Therefore, it's best to wait for an oral supplement of xanthohumol to be developed.

This study was published March 11 in the journal Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

The Linus Pauling Institute, OSU College of Pharmacy, Hop Steiner, Inc., Buhler-Wang Research Fund and the National Institutes of Health funded this study.

Conflicts of interest were unavailable at time of publication.