Switching from lager to pale ale may improve your chances of keeping your liver healthy, according to a new study that found that hops protect against the build up of hepatic fat. This research may help to explain why people who drink spirits tend to be more likely to develop liver disease than those who normally stick to the amber nectar, while also suggesting that beers with more hops are probably the healthiest.
The accumulation of fat in the liver is one of the main dangers of drinking, and can lead to fatty liver disease. In an attempt to figure out which ingredients in beer affect the likelihood of developing such a condition, researchers designed an experiment in which they fed mice either regular beer, beer without hops, or pure ethanol.
Twelve hours after feeding the mice their liquid lunch, the team examined their livers. Intriguingly, they discovered that those that drank either ethanol or hop-less beer had similar amounts of fat in their livers, while those that had regular beer had much less fat.
Publishing their work in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, the team conclude that hops protect against the accumulation of liver fat, which they say partly explains why beer tends to bring about fewer negative health conditions than other alcoholic drinks.
In addition, they discovered that the livers of mice that drank regular beer suffered less damage as a result of a process called oxidative stress, indicating that hops may also have an antioxidant effect. Though they aren’t entirely sure how hops bring about this protection, they discovered that levels of an enzyme called inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) were lower in the beer-fed mice than those fed on either ethanol or beer without hops. They therefore suspect that this enzyme may somehow mediate the positive effects of hops on the liver.