Finally, Some Beer in The Lab

We’ve been hearing for years about all the alleged health benefits of red wine, but researchers have left that other historic beverage largely untouched. I’m talking, of course, about beer. It’s not surprising – despite being one of the oldest human inventions and probably a major driving force in the formation of civilization, beer gets no respect. Now, though, a team from Belgium (perhaps the greatest beer-making culture in the world, by the way) has started to remedy that. As they explain in their paper:

Recent evidence suggests that hops-derived compounds positively impact adipocyte metabolism and glucose tolerance in obese and diabetic rodents via undefined mechanisms. In this study, we found that administration of tetrahydro iso-alpha acids (termed META060) to high-fat diet (HFD)-fed obese and diabetic mice for 8 weeks reduced body weight gain, the development of fat mass, glucose intolerance, and fasted hyperinsulinemia, and normalized insulin sensitivity markers.

Hops (Humulus lupulus) are an herb that serves as the main bittering agent in most beers, and the HFD mouse model is what happens when you put an ordinary lab mouse on an American-type diet. Apparently, the former can counteract some of the effects of the latter.

While I love my burgers and beer, though, we should take these new data with a dash of salt. The treatment in this paper consisted of spiking the animals’ high-fat food with 0.1 percent of the alpha acid analog these researchers are studying. Hops vary in their alpha acid concentrations, but even if you drink a strong IPA hopped with good Chinook and Cascade strains, your diet would have to be mostly beer to reach these levels. The same could be said about most red wine studies to date; the resveratrol that supposedly provides many of wine’s benefits is actually present in minuscule quantities in a typical glass of Merlot.

Nonetheless, I think there’s enough data here to warrant more research on beer. So let’s raise a glass to that.