Hops for Health

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.

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Alexander Michels, PhD

Alexander Michels is a Research Associate and Communications Officer for the Linus Pauling Institute. He has an extensive background in the research on vitamin C, with a specialty in understanding vitamin C transport through the body. His expertise also extends to research on other aspects of antioxidant vitamin metabolism and the action of phytochemicals.