Most people with health problems take a battery of meds, usually one per condition. So wouldn't it be great if there was just one pill that could combat, say, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease? Well, there may be one soon.
Scientists have long suspected that certain flavonoids, the nutrients found in plant-based foods that give them their distinctive coloring, have anti-inflammatory powers. And since many diseases (heart, diabetes, even obesity) are linked to inflammation, the idea is that eating certain foods--or at least isolating the nutrient--can lower the risk.
Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University were particularly interested in xanthohumol, a flavonoid found in hops, the plant used to brew beer. To test the flavonoid's power, scientists fed two groups of mice a high-fat diet. One group got a high dose of xanthohumol; the other did not.
The mice that consumed the xanthohumol along with their fatty diets gained weight much more slowly that the other group of mice--partly, the experts speculated, because the flavonoid sped up their metabolism. The xanthohumol cut their bad LDL cholesterol by 80 percent, their blood-sugar levels by 42 percent, and their inflammation levels by a whopping 78 percent.
"This is the first time we've seen one compound with the potential to address so many health problems," said the lead researcher. "These were very dramatic improvements."
Researchers caution that more studies need to be done--but there were no side effects in the mice they studied. And in case you're wondering about ingesting xanthohumol via your favorite brew, just be warned: You'd need to drink 2,000 bottles of beer a day to see the perks. Still, researchers are confident that the amount of xanthohumol needed could be put into a supplement if the flavonoid works as well on people as it does on mice.
For other surprising uses for beer, click through the gallery below!