Researchers in Germany say that a cancer-fighting substance found in hops could be enhanced to brew a special anti-cancer beer.
The discovery could lead to healthier beers and food supplements. The result could one day be that when you hold up a glass and say, "To your health", you would actually be toasting a triumph of the brewer's art over disease.
The preliminary studies indicate xanthohumol, found in hops, inhibits a family of enzymes that can trigger the cancer process, as well as help the body detoxify carcinogens, according to the science newswire Ivanhoe.
"It's very healthy. I think the ingredients in the beer are very good," says Werner Back, a brewing technology expert at the Technical University of Munich.
Xanthohumol contains more powerful antioxidants than vitamin E and some studies indicate it helps reduce oxidation of bad cholesterol, the newswire reported.
"Xanthohumol has been shown to be a very active substance against cancer," says Markus Herrmann of Munich. "It comes in small sticky beads, which you find within the hops."
Hops have always been known to possess medicinal properties and are used in herbal medicines as a muscle relaxant. Other compounds found in hops are potent phytoestrogens. Scientists say these compounds could ultimately help prevent post-menopausal hot flashes and osteoporosis.
Xanthohumol shuts down enzymes called cytochromes P-4; they can activate the cancer process. They also help the body detoxify carcinogens, stopping tumour growth at an early stage.
Preliminary studies at Oregon State University show that xanthohumol can kill breast, colon, ovarian, and prostate cancers, the newswire reported.
But don't toast your health too soon. The German researchers warn that it would take 60 regular beers to equal the amount of xanthohumol researchers are able to brew in this one beer.
That's why scientists are now working on ways to give all beers higher levels of Xanthohumol, and even find ways to add it to other foods, like chocolate.
And they say, just like chocolate - the darker the beer, the better it is for you.