A study has claimed that an ingredient in beer might be responsible for lifting your spirits by activating a key dopamine receptor. As always with these things though, there are some caveats, so don’t go downing beer just yet.
The study was led by Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and published in Scientific Reports. They looked at a database of 13,000 molecules found in various food and drink. They were looking for molecules that activate the dopamine D2 receptor. Several synthetic substances are already known to interact with this receptor.
They found that hordenine, a substance that’s present in malted barley and beer, was also able to interact with it. Like dopamine, it was able to stimulate the receptor, which could lead to a prolonged effect in the reward center of the brain.
"Based on its presence in beer, we suggest that hordenine significantly contributes to mood-elevating effects of beer," the team wrote in their paper.
"It came as a bit of surprise that a substance in beer activates the dopamine D2 receptor, especially as we were not specifically looking at stimulant foodstuffs," added Professor Monika Pischetsrieder, one of the study's co-authors, in a statement.
However, they don’t yet know if levels of hordenine in beer are sufficient to cause this effect, they just know that the substance itself plays a role. So we can’t really jump to any conclusions just yet. Previous claims of the positive effect of beer on dopamine levels have proven to be wide of the mark.
Alcohol is also a depressant and can disrupt your thoughts, balance, and even your mental health. In excess, alcohol can be extremely harmful. So while there might be a very marginal effect on your dopamine levels, there are plenty of negatives to drinking beer. Everything in moderation, then.