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'To your health'; Beer may fight cancer

December 6, 2007 12:00:00 AM PST
Some day soon, you may be able to buy beer from a health food store. Scientists are developing a new kind of brew that appears to fight cancer. But don't go drinking up just yet.The calendar reads December, but some researchers are toasting Octoberfest all year round. The reason is new information about an anti-cancer compound in beer. The discovery could lead to better beers and supplements. So when you hold up a glass and say, "To your health," those won't be empty words.

German researchers are working on a new beer brew that appears to fight cancer. The secret a compound found in hops -- xanthohumol.

"Xanthohumol has been shown to be a very active substance against cancer," said beer researcher Markus Herrmann, PhD.

Xanthohumol is one of the main ingredients in beer. And even though hops aren't new, scientists have discovered xanthohumol is a powerful antioxidant.

"It comes in small, sticky beads, which you find within the hops," said Herrmann.

Xanthohumol shuts down enzymes called cytochromes P-4; they can activate the cancer process. It also helps the body detoxify carcinogens, stopping tumor growth at an early stage.

Preliminary studies at Oregon State University show that xanthohumol can kill breast, colon, ovarian, and prostate cancers.

"It's very healthy," said Professor Werner Back of the Technical University of Munich. "I think the ingredients in the beer are very good."

Scientists say xanthohumol contains more powerful antioxidants than vitamin E. But its health benefits don't stop there -- studies are now showing it also reduces the oxidation of bad cholesterol.

But just drinking more beer won't do the trick. 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 remember, just like chocolate -- the darker the beer, the better it is for you.

And there are potentially more beer benefits. Other compounds found in hops are potent phytoestrogens. Scientists say these compounds could ultimately help prevent post-menopausal hot flashes and osteoporosis.

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