HopsAlthough it doesn’t have the extensive history of other herbal remedies, hop flowers have been used medicinally for centuries to combat indigestion, calm anxiety, and help with insomnia. Of course, the most famous application of hops is the brewing of beer.

Today we know that hops contain a variety of compounds, many which could have effects on the body. Linus Pauling Institute scientists have focused on one particularly promising flavonoid from hops called xanthohumol that seems to have an effect on metabolism. This makes it an attractive compound to study for its potential in helping with weight control and blood sugar management, especially in those with diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

Recent animals studies by the Stevens lab have supported these ideas. As described in a recent article by the Oregonian, mice on a high-fat diet containing xanthohumol gained less weight and had lower insulin and cholesterol levels than their counterparts who ingested no xanthohumol. Studies are currently underway at the institute to explore the effects of xanthohumol in humans.

summer-sunshine-alcohol-drinkBut don’t reach for the beer can yet (at least, not with the hope that you’ll lose weight). The average pint of IPA has less than one tenth of one milligram of xanthohumol, as Linus Pauling Institute researcher Cristobal Miranda, Ph.D., told Men’s Journal, and that’s a far cry from the approximately 350 milligrams you would need to approximate what the animals were fed. As journalist Brittany Anas put it, “to derive any benefits of xanthohumol from beer, you’d have to do the impossible and guzzle 3,500 pints per day.”

While visions of a beer with drastically higher xanthohumol levels may occupy the daydreams of brewers and drinkers alike, in the meantime sources of xanthohumol include hop tea and dietary supplements. Given that the quality of supplements can really vary and the results of human clinical trials aren’t in yet, our advice is to wait a bit longer before diving in.

Recent headlines linking folic acid and autism are misleading and potentially dangerous. Photo credit: Tatiana Vdb // Flickr
Recent headlines linking folic acid and autism are misleading and potentially dangerous. Photo credit: Tatiana Vdb // Flickr

Last week, many in the nutrition and medical fields let out a collective sigh. That’s because there is good quality nutrition research, from actual humans in randomized control trials, showing the importance of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy. Taking a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid (the form of folate found in most supplements) can prevent birth defects associated with the brain and spinal cord. And organizations like the March of Dimes have done a good job getting the word out about folic acid to women of childbearing age. The FDA even just announced it would allow corn flour to be fortified with folic acid, in order to prevent birth defects among women who eat corn as a staple in their diet.

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FDA Nutrition Facts Label 2006On the back of every cereal box, frozen dinner, condiment bottle, and any other packaged food, you will find the Nutrition Facts label.

Introduced by the Food and Drug Administration over 25 years ago, the purpose of this labeling system is to help consumers make more informed food choices.

Thus it would be natural to think you’re covered for, say, vitamin C, if a product’s Nutrition Facts label says it provides 100% of the Daily Value of vitamin C.


But you’d be wrong.

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