Sunday, March 12, 2006

Can Beer Cure Cancer?

A compound found in hops and the main product they are used in — beer — is gaining interest as a micronutrient that might help prevent types of cancer.

Researchers at Oregon State University first discovered the cancer-related properties of this flavonoid compound called xanthohumol about 10 years ago.

Xanthohumol was first discovered in 1913, but for decades the only people who showed any interest in it were brewers, who wanted to learn more about the compound in the hope of imparting more flavor in their beers. In the 1990s Oregon State University researchers began to study the compound of its anti-cancer properties. The compound appears to have several mechanisms that relate to cancer prevention.

In the future it's possible, scientists say, that hops might be produced or genetically engineered to have higher levels of xanthohumol, in order to take advantage of the anti-cancer properties. Some beers today are already higher in the compounds, such as porter, stout and ale brews. However, most of the beers commonly sold in the United States, such as pilsners and lagers, have fairly low levels of these compounds.

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