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Scientists Discover the 'Healthy' Molecules in Beer

Scientists Discover the 'Healthy' Molecules in Beer

We expect this molecule to be the beer version of resveratrol

We always knew that beer could be healthy (all those hops!), but it turns out that scientists could use specific beer molecules to make actual medicine. It won't be as social as going through a growler with friends, but it's probably better for our liver.

Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered the precise moluecular configuration of humulones, a substance from hops that makes the beer bitter.

According to the new study, led by Werner Kaminsky, pharmaceuticals based off humulones could potentially help treat diabetes, some types of cancers, and other diseases.

Past research has suggested that beer's bitterness could help cure colds, inflammation, diabetes, and perhaps help weight loss (althought our beer belly says otherwise). Unfortunately, however, this does not give us an excuse to keep on drinking.

"Excessive beer consumption cannot be recommended to propagate good health," the authors say, "[but] isolated humulones and their derivatives can be prescribed with documented health benefits." Well, that certainly seems to take all the fun out of it.

Scientists Discover the 'Healthy' Molecules in Beer - Recipes

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Major fat-burning discovery

When you're taking a brisk walk on a beautiful day, what are you thinking about? The sun, the breeze, how good it feels to loosen up the stiff parts. The last thing you're thinking about as you pick up the pace is what's happening to your body chemistry.

When you exercise, your body chemistry changes in ways that we only now are coming to understand. Over the past 20 years, scientists have identified natural molecules in all of us that influence our appetite and our metabolism—and, hence, our weight. Now, researchers at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere are identifying the molecules that not only affect our weight, but also cause other health benefits of exercise.

"Our muscle cells need a source of energy when they exercise," says Dr. Anthony Komaroff, a professor at Harvard Medical School. "Muscles get that energy by burning fat and sugar brought to them by the blood. That's been known for nearly a century. However, it's not the whole story. "

The hormone irisin

In January 2012, a research team led by Dr. Bruce Spiegelman, a Harvard Medical School professor, published a new study in the journal Nature. The study was done in mice, but may well apply to humans. The study showed that exercising muscle produces a hormone called irisin.

"Irisin travels throughout the body in the blood, and alters fat cells," explains Dr. Komaroff. "Body fat is stored inside fat cells. Most of these fat cells are called white fat cells, and their function is to store fat."

White fat vs. brown fat

Why do we store fat? When we eat more calories than we burn by exercise, the extra calories have to go somewhere. They're stored partly as fat. Our distant ancestors didn't eat as regularly as we do. Forty thousand years ago on the Serengeti, our ancestors were able to get a serious meal only a few times each week. In between meals, they needed some source of energy. A large part of it came from the fat they stored away after a meal.

In 2009, studies from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere discovered that humans have not only white fat cells but also brown fat cells.

"Brown fat cells don't store fat: they burn fat. If your goal is to lose weight, you want to increase the number of your brown fat cells and to decrease your white fat cells," says Dr. Komaroff.

Irisin does that, at least in mice. And those newly-created brown fat cells keep burning calories after exercise is over. But it gets better.

Irisin's other effects

We've known for some time that a regular program of moderate exercise protects us against type 2 diabetes. For example, a lifestyle program that included regular moderate exercise reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nearly 60%—more than any medicine yet invented. How does that happen? Irisin may be an important part of the answer. In addition to its effect in creating brown fat cells, it also helps prevent or overcome insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes.

Although Dr. Spiegelman did his studies in mice, he found that humans have irisin, too. While not yet proven, it is very likely that irisin has similar effects in humans.

"Studies like these are just plain interesting, in and of themselves," says Dr. Komaroff. "They help us to understand better how our body works. However, the discovery of irisin also could have some very practical and beneficial applications. Theoretically, irisin could become a treatment to help us maintain a healthy body weight and reduce the risk of diabetes."

Yes, other medicines with a similar promise have come and gone. However, irisin is not an unnatural pharmaceutical. Rather, it's part of our natural body chemistry. That may make it more potent and less likely to have adverse effects. So there is justifiable excitement about the discovery of irisin, and about the speed with which science is discovering the chemistry of exercise, appetite, metabolic rate and body weight.

However, our environment, and its effect on our own behavior, plays a huge role in determining how much we exercise and how much we eat, and therefore how much we weigh.

"We don't have to wait for a magic potion," says Dr. Komaroff. "We already have a proven treatment that profoundly protects our health: exercise."

Scientists Discover 23 New Molecules in Red Wine

Red wine may have just gotten even healthier. Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC), in partnership with the University of Adelaide, recently discovered 23 molecules in wine heretofore unknown, and they could hold potential health benefits for wine drinkers.

These 23 new molecules belong to the family of stilbenoids, which are a type of polyphenol—the group of chemicals in wine that includes tannins, pigments and quercetin. Prior to the UBC study, the scientific community recognized 18 different stilbenoids, including resveratrol. “Stilbenoids are a natural defense of the [grapevine] to protect against fungal infection and the effects of rainy weather,” explained Cedric Saucier, head of UBC’s chemistry department and an author of the study. Found largely in grape skins, stilbenoids release antioxidants during vinification.

The team scanned concentrated extracts from Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, all from Okanagan Valley wineries and the 2010 vintage, then separated the compounds in order to examine them closely. They measured no fewer than 41 stilbenoids. The newly discovered 23 compounds appear in lower quantities than their already-known counterparts, which may be why scientists never found them before.

Multiple studies have confirmed the benefits of many polyphenols, so it’s probable that these new additions to the wine stilbenoid family will have positive health effects. But confirmation could take awhile: Once scientists validate the exact structure of these compounds, “we have to do a lot of biological tests,” said Saucier. “To be honest, the next steps have to be done by hundreds of researchers around the world.” And scientists are still working to understand how humans metabolize wine polyphenols and how the compounds interact once ingested.

“We’ve discovered new cousins of resveratrol,” Saucier said. “We hope that the antioxidants [found in these stilbenoids] will delay chronic diseases in humans: cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s [disease], cancer. That’s the hope.”

Toxic Ingredients Commonly Found In Alcohol

1. Pesticides

Conventionally grown grapes are one of the most heavily-sprayed crops (they rank #6 in the EWG’s latest Dirty Dozen list). And wine, like grape juice, is a concentrated form of the fruit, so the amount of pesticide residue will be much greater in a cup of wine than a cup of whole grapes. Unless a wine is labeled “organic,” you can’t be sure that you’re not ingesting bone-damaging pesticides.

A note about organic labeling – pay attention to the wording. If it says “made with organic grapes,” then it may contain more sulfites than if the wine is simply labeled “organic”.

2. Sulfur Dioxide

Usually shortened to “sulfites” or “sulphites,” sulfur dioxide occurs naturally to some degree in all wines, in various forms and amounts. But naturally-occurring sulfites are generally in a very low concentration, whereas commercial, mass-produced wines, where every batch must taste the same, may contain significant amounts of sulfites.

Wine manufacturers add sulfur dioxide as a preservative. It makes wine shelf-stable at room temperature, which most people attribute to the wine’s alcohol content. But that’s not why your bottle of wine doesn’t “go bad” when it sits on the countertop during the summer. It’s actually the sulfur dioxide.

How much sulfur dioxide is added varies greatly by brand, quality of grapes, and other factors. Wine makers may add more sulfur dioxide to one batch than another. And therein lies the problem – a wine may have a vague label saying “contains sulfites,” but no reference to the milligrams per liter.

Another factor influences how much sulfite is added to wine. When wine makers add the sulfites, some of the molecules become “bound” to other elements in the wine, rendering the sulfites useless as a preservative. So manufacturers must add enough sulfur dioxide that there will be plenty of “free” sulfites available after binding takes place. For example, wines with a lot of added sugar will likely contain greater amounts of sulfur dioxide, because sugar binds with the sulfite molecules.

Sulfur dioxide can cause allergic reactions, such as skin flushing and headaches, and it can exacerbate asthma.

3. GMOs

Many alcoholic drinks, such as vodka are corn-based (corn is rapidly replacing potatoes as the base for vodka), and corn is one of the major GM crops. Other drinks, including beer, may contain not only corn, but corn derivatives like GMO corn syrup.

4. Animal Products

Animal products are not toxic per se, but the odd animal parts – such as fish bladder (sometimes listed as “isinglass”) – are not necessarily something you’d want to ingest unknowingly. And for vegans, products like gelatin, found in various alcoholic drinks, are off-limits. Those who have ethical concerns about consuming animal products will certainly want to know if there are any such products in whatever food or beverage they’re consuming.

4. “Natural” Flavors And Artificial Colors

The vague term “natural flavors” denotes any flavoring agent that has a natural source…but the end product may be anything but natural. A good illustration of this is monosodium glutamate, a dubious substance that has been linked to skin rashes, migraines, and even heart irregularities. But if its source is something natural, such as vegetables or fruits, then it can be claimed to be a “natural flavor.”

Consuming a substance in low amounts as it occurs naturally in a food is entirely different than consuming it in high concentrations after it’s been extracted from the food and added to another food or beverage.

Additionally, artificial colors abound in various alcoholic drinks, especially those that are flavored, such as FD&C Yellow #5, FD&C Blue #1, FD&C Red 40, caramel color, and other toxic food dyes are all potential additives.

6. BPA

The container your alcoholic beverage is stored in makes a difference. Most cans contain plastic linings with BPA, and plastic bottles, jugs, and boxed wine containers may also contain it. BPA, or bisphenol A, is a known calcium-blocker that has been linked to birth defects, cancer of the breast and prostate, early puberty, impaired immunity, neurological impairment, and other grave health concerns. Glass bottles are a safe option.

7. Arsenic

A known carcinogen, arsenic has been found in wines in varying amounts, mainly in wines produced in California, New York, Washington and Oregon. Because arsenic occurs naturally in the soil, the actual levels of this chemical in wine are difficult to pinpoint. Some wines consistently contain more than others, with some containing four and five times the amount allowed by the EPA in drinking water. You may have heard of this because it was widely reported by the media.

Choosing organic wine decreases the chance that it will contain arsenic from grapes that were grown in chemically-fertilized soil (fertilizers often contain arsenic).

8. Propylene Glycol

Found in the popular beer Corona, propylene glycol (PEG) is known to cause neurological conditions. It may be in other beers, too the problem, of course, is that there’s no way to know unless the manufacturer chooses to list ingredients.

That brings us to the question of…

What Do BEER and Good Health Have In Common?

On first glance you might be wondering what BEER and your good health have in common? For many years scientists have understood the healthful benefits of the hops plant. Hops are an ingredient of BEER. 20%-30% of a typical beer is composed of hops. Hops are what give beer its distinctive flavor. The female flower of the hops plant contains molecules that provide many benefits to the human body. The scientific name for this part of the hops plant is called Xanthohumol (pronounced zan-tho-HUGH-mol). More on Xanthohumol in a minute.

The only drawback to the assimilation of this ingredient Xanthohumol is that it takes a great quantity of the hops molecule to do your body any good. You would have to consume massive quantities of hops beverage every day to get enough of it to provide any noticeable benefit. Some scientists have estimated that you'd have to drink upwards of 120 gallons of beer per day to get enough hops to help your health. Now that is a lot of beer! Not to say what it would do to your health.
Here are some of the benefits derived from the hops molecule Xanthohumol.

*Reinforces healthy metabolic activity.

*Enhances free radicals and other sources of oxidative stress.

*Helps maintain a healthy heart.

*Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

*Accelerates weight loss and helps keep weight off.

*Helps maintain healthy eye cornea and retina.

*Helps maintain healthy glucose and insulin levels.

*Protects against viruses, bacteria and fungi.

*Acts as a non-thermogenic energy enhancer.

*Helps maintain mood and focus.

*Reduces the long-term risk of serious health problems.

*Improves skin tone and color.

*Helps maintain clear, healthy eyes.

*Helps fight poor sleep and insomnia.

*Restores, protects, and vitalizes your health.

The problem has been the body's difficulty in metabolizing enough hops in its native form and the consumer's lack of a way to intake it and metabolize it in a positive way. You just could not get enough hops or hops in the proper way to do your health any good.

A brand new company in Arizona called BioNovix has unlocked the secret to bringing the beneficial hops plant to the world. It is a welcome relief to discover that you can now obtain an affordable and easily taken healthy liquid formula. Its name is MeridiumXN.

MeridiumXN is the natural Xanthohumol molecule in a concentrated liquid form that anyone can afford. Three small droppers full a day in a small glass of water is all anyone needs. MeridiumXN comes in a green tea and mint flavor and soon to be released gel caps. Understanding the health benefits of hops you might say that MeridiumXN could become the beer drinker's best friend! Here's to "Hops To Your Health."

Bioactive Molecules in Food

This reference work provides comprehensive information about the bioactive molecules presented in our daily food and their effect on the physical and mental state of our body. Although the concept of functional food is new, the consumption of selected food to attain a specific effect existed already in ancient civilizations, namely of China and India. Consumers are now more attentive to food quality, safety and health benefits, and the food industry is led to develop processed- and packaged-food, particularly in terms of calories, quality, nutritional value and bioactive molecules.

This book covers the entire range of bioactive molecules presented in daily food, such as carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, isoflavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C, polyphenols, bioactive molecules presented in wine, beer and cider. Concepts like French paradox, Mediterranean diet, healthy diet of eating fruits and vegetables, vegan and vegetarian diet, functional foods are described with suitable case studies. Readers will also discover a very timely compilation of methods for bioactive molecules analysis.

Written by highly renowned scientists of the field, this reference work appeals to a wide readership, from graduate students, scholars, researchers in the field of botany, agriculture, pharmacy, biotechnology and food industry to those involved in manufacturing, processing and marketing of value-added food products.

Brewing hoppy beer without the hops

Hoppy beer is all the rage among craft brewers and beer lovers, and now UC Berkeley biologists have come up with a way to create these unique flavors and aromas without using hops.

The researchers created strains of brewer's yeast that not only ferment the beer but also provide two of the prominent flavor notes provided by hops. In double-blind taste tests, employees of Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California, characterized beer made from the engineered strains as more hoppy than a control beer made with regular yeast and Cascade hops.

Bryan Donaldson, innovations manager at Lagunitas, detected notes of "fruit-loops" and "orange blossom" with no off flavors.

Why would brewers want to use yeast instead of hops to impart flavor and aroma? According to Charles Denby, one of two first authors of a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature Communications, growing hops uses lots of water, not to mention fertilizer and energy to transport the crop, all of which could be avoided by using yeast to make a hop-forward brew. A pint of craft beer can require 50 pints of water merely to grow the hops, which are the dried flowers of a climbing plant.

"My hope is that if we can use the technology to make great beer that is produced with a more sustainable process, people will embrace that," Denby said.

Hops' flavorful components, or essential oils, are also highly variable from year to year and plot to plot, so using a standardized yeast would allow uniformity of flavor. And hops are expensive.

A former UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow, Denby has launched a startup called Berkeley Brewing Science with Rachel Li, the second first author and a UC Berkeley doctoral candidate. They hope to market hoppy yeasts to brewers, including strains that contain more of the natural hop flavor components, and create other strains that incorporate novel plant flavors not typical of beer brewed from the canonical ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast.

Using DNA scissors

The engineered yeast strains were altered using CRISPR-Cas9, a simple and inexpensive gene-editing tool invented at UC Berkeley. Denby and Li inserted four new genes plus the promoters that regulate the genes into industrial brewer's yeast. Two of the genes -- linalool synthase and geraniol synthase -- code for enzymes that produce flavor components common to many plants. In this instance, the genes came from mint and basil, respectively. Genes from other plants that were reported to have linalool synthase activity, such as olive and strawberry, were not as easy to work with.

The two other genes were from yeast and boosted the production of precursor molecules needed to make linalool and geraniol, the hoppy flavor components. All of the genetic components -- the Cas9 gene, four yeast, mint and basil genes and promoters -- were inserted into yeast on a tiny circular DNA plasmid. The yeast cells then translated the Cas9 gene into the Cas9 proteins, which cut the yeast DNA at specific points. Yeast repair enzymes then spliced in the four genes plus promoters.

The researchers used a specially designed software program to get just the right mix of promoters to produce linalool and geraniol in proportions similar to the proportions in commercial beers produced by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, which operates a tap room not far from the startup.

They then asked Charles Bamforth, a malting and brewing authority at UC Davis, to brew a beer from three of the most promising strains, using hops only in the initial stage of brewing -- the wort -- to get the bitterness without the hoppy flavor. Hop flavor was supplied only by the new yeast strains. Bamforth also brewed a beer with standard yeast and hops, and asked a former student, Lagunitas's Donaldson, to conduct a blind comparison taste test with 27 brewery employees.

"This was one of our very first sensory tests, so being rated as hoppier than the two beers that were actually dry-hopped at conventional hopping rates was very encouraging," Li said.

From sustainable fuels to sustainable beer

Denby came to UC Berkeley to work on sustainable transportation fuels with Jay Keasling, a pioneer in the field of synthetic biology and a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. The strategy developed by Keasling is to make microbes, primarily bacteria and yeast, ramp up their production of complex molecules called terpenes, and then insert genes that turn these terpenes into commercial products. These microbes can make such chemicals as the antimalarial drug, artemisinin, fuels such as butanol, and aromas and flavors used in the cosmetic industry.

But the brewing project "found me," Denby said

"I started home brewing out of curiosity with a group of friends while I was starting out in Jay's lab, in part because I enjoy beer and in part because I was interested in fermentation processes," he said. "I found out that the molecules that give hops their hoppy flavor are terpene molecules, and it wouldn't be too big of a stretch to think we could develop strains that make terpenes at the same concentrations that you get when you make beer and add hops to them."

The final hook was that a hoppy strain of yeast would make the brewing process more sustainable than using agriculturally produced hops, which is a very natural resource-intensive product, he said.

"We started our work on engineering microbes to produce isoprenoids -- like flavors, fragrances and artemisinin -- about 20 years ago," said Keasling. "At the same time, we were building tools to accurately control metabolism. With this project, we are able to use some of the tools others and we developed to accurately control metabolism to produce just the right amount of hops flavors for beer."

Denby and Li first had to overcome some hurdles, such as learning how to genetically engineer commercial brewer's yeast. Unlike the yeast used in research labs, which have one set of chromosomes, brewer's yeast has four sets of chromosomes. They found out that they needed to add the same four genes plus promoters to each set of chromosomes to obtain a stable strain of yeast if not, as the yeast propagated they lost the added genes.

They also had to find out, through computational analytics performed by Zak Costello, which promoters would produce the amounts of linalool and geraniol at the right times to approximate the concentrations in a hoppy beer, and then scale up fermentation by a factor of about 100 from test tube quantities to 40-liter kettles.

In the end, they were able to drink their research project, and continue to do so at their startup as they ferment batches of beer to test new strains of yeast.

"Charles and Rachel have shown that using the appropriate tools to control production of these flavors can result in a beer with a more consistent hoppy flavor, even better than what nature can do itself," Keasling said.

The work was funded from grants awarded by the National Science Foundation. These include an initial grant awarded to UC Berkeley to use synthetic biology in yeast to produce industrially important products, and subsequent funding from a Small Business Innovation Research grant to Berkeley Brewing Science.

In addition to Denby, Li, Costello, Keasling, Donaldson and Bamforth, other coauthors are Van Vu of UC Berkeley, Weiyin Lin, Leanne Jade Chan, Christopher Petzold, Henrik Scheller and Hector Garcia Martin of the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville, which is part of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Joseph Williams of UC Davis.

A curious flurry of headlines in praise of beer appeared this week:

It was reported that scientists from Germany have discovered that a molecule in beer called hordenine activates dopamine receptors in the brain, and thus produces a positive mood. The research in question was published back in March of this year, so I'm not sure why it only made the headlines this week - maybe Oktoberfest had something to do with it. Either way, the study did indeed find that hordenine is a dopamine D2 receptor agonist, but it's not clear this has any relevance to beer drinkers.

The German researchers, Sommer et al., are chemists, not neuroscientists. They used computational simulations to model whether 13,000 known ɿood-derived' molecules would bind to the D2 receptor. The hordenine molecule was predicted to fit the receptor, and follow-up experiments showed that it does indeed bind to it, suggesting possible psychoactive properties. But Sommer et al. didn't study whether hordenine actually exists in beer in sufficient amounts to have any effect. They didn't consider whether it can even reach the brain after oral consumption. According to Wikipedia, some animal studies have shown that hordenine is "not orally active" , although it does have effects when injected. Overall, Sommer et al. were engaging in pure speculation when they wrote that

Based on its presence in beer, we suggest that hordenine significantly contributes to mood-elevating effects of beer.

So I'm pretty sure that there is only one molecule in beer that makes you happy. This is the same molecule that can make you unhappy. So let's raise a glass to ethanol, the real star of beer.

  • British scientists used neutrons to analyse the molecular composition of foam
  • They found that molecules of additives on the surface of bubbles affect stability
  • Longevity of foams used to tackle fires and environmental disasters is crucial to their efficacy

Published: 15:50 BST, 23 December 2019 | Updated: 16:36 BST, 23 December 2019

Beer drinkers may soon be able to enjoy a head of beer that lasts all the way to the bottom of their pint glass, thanks to new research into the longevity of foams.

Liquids such as beer and shampoo contain additives to make them foam.

In order to understand how different additives affect the stability of bubbles within the foam, scientists fired beams of neutrons at these liquids and analysed how they were reflected.

They claim that understanding how additives affect the structure of bubbles could allow developers to formulate the 'ideal' type of foam for various products.

For example, in one potential application, beers drinkers might be able to enjoy a pint where the foam or 'head' stays on top of the beer right until the last sip.

Some commercially-made products such as beer benefit from foams that are ultra-stable, meaning the head stays on top right until the last sip


Neutrons are the particles in an atom that have a neutral charge.

They have a unique set of properties which make them ideal to investigate almost all kinds of matter.

Because neutrons carry no electric charge, they therefore do not interact with the electron shell of the atom, but instead with the atomic nuclei – or the centre of the atom.

Thus, neutrons are non-destructive and can penetrate deep into matter, making them an ideal probe for biological materials.

Neutrons can be used for studying geological samples, new materials for energy production and storage, chemicals which affect the environment, and polymers and plastics.

In another, the technology could improve the formulation of detergents used in washing machines, where the production of foams is undesirable.

And it could also be used to develop more effective products to clean up our oceans by improving the action of oil slick cleaning detergents, or potentially even save lives by making fire-fighting foam more robust.

'Foams are used in many products – and product developers have long tried to improve them so they are better equipped for the task they are designed to tackle,' said lead researcher Dr Richard Campbell at the University of Manchester.

'But researchers have simply been on a different track, thinking of general surface properties and not about the structures created when different molecules assemble at the surface of bubbles.

'It was only through our use of neutrons at a world-leading facility that it was possible to make this advance because only this measurement technique could tell us how the different additives arrange themselves at the liquid surface to provide foam film stability.'

The research could enable the development of shampoos with the 'ideal' amount of lather

While the behaviour of foams made from liquids containing just one additive is relatively well understood, understanding the behaviour of liquids containing multiple additives – like those in consumer products such as beer – have remained much more elusive.

Dr Campbell and his team conducted his research at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Greonble, France – one of the world's leading centres for research using neutron scattering.

The team studied mixtures containing surfactant – a compound that lowers surface tension – and a polymer called an polyelectrolyte, which is used to make shampoos.

In beer, for example, surfactants create a membrane around the beer bubbles, which prevents the bubbles from popping by allowing them to stick to nearby bubbles.