Hops could reduce Alzheimer’s risk

Hoppy beers, such as IPAs, could help to protect against dementia, according to a new study. Hop flower extracts are used in brewing to impart a bitter flavour, but the antioxidant properties in the ingredient may have another benefit.

Scientists from the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy have found evidence to suggest hops prevent protein plaques clumping in the brain. These plaques have been linked to Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia, across extensive research over the years.

There are more than 250 varieties of hops, but Tettnang hops cultivated around Lake Constance in Germany were found to be the most effective at clearing protein clumps. They’re used in a number of light lagers and amber ales.

While the scientists warned against drinking more beer, because excess alcohol is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, it could influence beer choice. When enjoying alcohol in moderation, it might be worth opting for a lighter ale over the alternatives.

Hops are not just found in beer, but also in some herbal teas and soft drinks. It could be worth seeking these out to increase hop intake without drinking more alcohol. Some experts even believe hopped soft drinks could become a popular trend.

As there is currently no cure for dementia, people are encouraged to make lifestyle choices to cut their risk of developing the condition. This approach, coupled with early diagnosis, represents the best chance of keeping it at bay.

The scientists in Italy expanded on previous research that suggested hop flowers could interrupt amyloid beta protein build-up in the brain. They analysed four of the most common hop varieties, exposing them to amyloid proteins and human nerve cells.

As well as having antioxidant properties that stop amyloid beta proteins from clumping around cells, the hop extracts also stimulated autophagic pathways. These renewal processes allow the body to break down old cell parts and reuse them in a highly efficient manner.

A report from the Office for National Statistics revealed in April this year that dementia and Alzheimer’s are responsible for the largest number of deaths in England. Spotting the signs early in an elderly relative is important to slow its onset.

Common symptoms include memory loss, confusion and mood swings. If you’re worried about a loved one, then contacting their GP is the first step. Without a cure, treatments help to stop symptoms from progressing and allow individuals to keep their independence for as long as possible.