Hops for Health

hopsA byproduct of brewing beer with hops may soon be a common medication to control weight, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other symptoms of metabolic disorders, thanks to a recent discovery by Oregon State University researchers.

Researchers have known for years that mice who are fed xanthohumol, a compound found in the hops flower, gain less weight and have better cholesterol and blood sugar levels than mice fed a control diet. But they didn’t know why or how the compound worked—until now.

Recent findings published in the scientific journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta reveal that xanthohumol bonds with a protein known as the Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR). This receptor is an essential part of the body’s metabolism—it regulates sugar and fat levels. When the body has too many metabolic problems, the receptor can get overwhelmed and shut down.

But xanthohumol can amp up the FXR protein’s efficiency by binding with FXR, according to Claudia Maier, OSU chemistry professor and one of the paper’s authors.

“It’s kind of like a booster,” she said.

Xanthohumol can already be bought over the counter as supplements or in beverages, but Maier thinks this new discovery of how the compound works will prompt new drug innovations by pharmaceutical companies.

Still, don’t assume you can pop a xanthohumol and continue to eat all the pizza and drink all the beer you want.

Maier puts it like this: “It will not be the bullet that solves everything.”

Jumping jacks, anyone?

Interested in Willamette Valley hop history? Check out the upcoming talk by Dr. Peter Kopp, New Mexico State University history professor and author of Hoptopia: A World of Agriculture and Beer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Be there at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, in the OSU Valley library.

By Maggie Anderson