I’ll Have An IPA, For My Liver’s Sake: Hops May Protect Against Liver Damage
If you’re one of those people who has a hard time deciding what to order when you are standing at a busy bar and there are people waiting behind you, first of all, stop it. Make up your mind before you engage the bartender, and save him or her a ton of frustration along with the rest of us.
Secondly, you might consider going for a nice, hoppy beer–for your health’s sake. Although the flavor is a bit advanced for beginners–the kind of people who hem and haw when they are ordering at a bar–a new study seems to indicate that an India Pale Ale and other hoppy beers like it might be just the thing for your health.
It turns out that the hops in these types of beers may well be useful in protecting the liver from damage. The mechanism behind this seems to be that the hops help protect the liver against the buildup of hepatic fat in the liver, which leads to fatty liver disease, and is also a precursor stage to cirrhosis and other liver disease.
A puzzlement for doctors and other researchers over the years has been the observable fact that liver disease seems to strike more people who drink heavily of hard liquors and wine, but not so much those who imbibe a lot of beer. This study may go a long way toward explaining that phenomenon.
The study took three groups of very lucky mice and fed them either regular beer, beer without hops, or pure ethanol.
Twelve hours later, the team examined the livers of the mice (okay, so maybe not so lucky after all, but what a way to go). What they founds was that the mice who had consumed either hopless beer or ethanol had similar levels of liver fat, whereas the ones who got regular beer had significantly lower levels.
The group published their findings in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, concluding that hops are the key to protecting the liver against he build-up of fat, which also explains how heavy beer drinkers on average have fewer health problems related to the liver than those who are addicted to other alcoholic beverages.
Another interesting finding was that the mice who drank regular beer had less damage from what is called oxidative stress, which indicates a connection to the hops, although they do not yet have a specific understanding of how this works.
So clearly further study is called for. And while we would never suggest anyone imbibe an unhealthy amount of alcohol of any kind, perhaps some close studies involving a pint or two on the weekend are in order.