Cancer fighting agent found in beer

On quarter draft night consumers aren’t just drinking beer, they’re drinking a cancer-fighting agent.

After a 10-year study scientists concluded that a compound found in beer is capable of preventing numerous types of cancer.

The study was conducted by Fred Stevens, an associate professor at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, and revealed xanthohumol, which is in beer, can prevent cancer.

Scientists have known about xanthohumol since 1913. Yet its value only went as far as the breweries. Xanthohumol is a yellow substance found in the hops flower. Breweries use it for aroma and taste of beer.

Any other potential the compound might have had was forgotten for decades – until 1995 when Stevens and his colleagues studied its properties.

Knowing the compound had “amazing properties,” Stevens put his focus on fighting bad cholesterol, known as LDL. He concluded xanthohumol could help prevent LDL.

But lowering cholesterol was not so high a priority for the institute as cancer prevention. This is why the first laboratory available to Stevens and his colleagues was set up for cancer preventative research.

Through a series of tests Stevens and his colleagues Don Buhler and Cristobol Miranda, also professors at OSU, discovered that xanthohumol stops enzymes that can activate the cancer process.

Stevens said discovering its use for cancer prevention was “a pleasant surprise” – one that would send the scientific community into a frenzy.

A group of scientists from Germany have gone so far as to create a health beer artificially increasing the amount of xanthohumol per liter.

This news has received mixed reviews from local members of the Bowling Green community.

“I’d say there’d be a lot of people taking proper precautions in preventing themselves from getting cancer because a lot of people drink beer, especially on quarter draft night,” said Brittany Shepler, a bartender at local bar Kamikazes.

Carrie Blair, an alcohol and other drug counselor in BGSU’s Wellness Connection feels differently. “I’ve seen people die from diseases related to alcohol intake – beer – but I’ve never seen anyone cured from it,” she said.

Regardless of where the agents are used, in beer or otherwise, Stevens stressed the importance of finding cancer-preventative agents as it is common for people to ingest cancer causing chemicals every day. From cigarette smoke to the black crust on barbecued meat, carcinogens are processed in the body.

During the tests scientists saw how xanthohumol stopped the enzyme that turns such substances as the black crust into carcinogens.

“It stops the initiating step in cancer formation,” Stevens said.

Stevens continued to use the food example because the flip side of using food to create cancer is using food to fight it.

And in this instance beer is the outlet.

In his report Stevens wrote “beer is the most important dietary source of xanthohumol.” The chemist cited the U.S. Department of Agriculture in his report saying the average person in the United States consumed 225 mL of beer a day in 2001.

However, 225 mL is not enough to give someone all the xanthohumol they would need to fight cancer. The amount of the compound found in beer is very small and is metabolized so quickly that most of it does not get into the blood stream.

“However, I have to say even with five milliliters of xanthohumol in beer, you’d have to drink a lot more beer to get the effects,” Stevens said. “You would have to drink around a keg of beer for there to be cancer prevention.”

Blair agrees that cancer would not be a problem.

“You would not have cancer,” she said. “It would be the least of your worries because you’d be dead. I’ve seen people die from diseases related to alcohol intake – beer – but I’ve never seen anyone cured of cancer from it.”

Stevens also said to drink large amounts of beer to fight cancer would be “ridiculous” and if there could be an acceptable herbal supplement made it could be helpful. However, it will take some time because the compound has not been tested on humans yet.