Bitter Compound in Beer Helps Make New Medicines to Cure Diabetes and Cancer

First Posted: Jan 30, 2013 02:32 AM EST

A latest study conducted by a team of U.S. researchers suggest that hops, a key ingredient in beer that helps in preserving it and gives it a distinctive flavor, could actually help in yielding new drugs to treat diseases like diabetes, cancer and other maladies. 

"Now that we have the right results, what happens to the bitter hops in the beer-brewing process makes a lot more sense," Werner Kaminsky, a University of Washington research associate professor of chemistry, and lead author of the paper, said in a press statement.

Prior to this, studies have indicated that beer and its bittering acid have a positive effect on diabetes, inflammation, some forms of cancer and even weight loss.

During the brewing process, hops produce certain acids and other derivatives. In order to understand the exact structure of these acids, the humulone molecules and their derivatives, researchers implemented a process known as X-ray crystallography. Understanding the intricate details of these structures is important, in order to incorporate the same substances together with their health effects into the making of new pharmaceuticals.

It was important for the researchers to understand how a particular humulone will react with another substance. If the pairing is incorrect, it can produce disastrous results in pharmaceuticals.

Later, the acids from the brewing process were recovered and purified by coauthors Jan Urban, Clinton Dahlberg and Brian Carroll of KinDex Therapeutics, a Seattle pharmaceutical firm. This was done to determine the configuration of humulones formed in the brewing process.  

The humulones were converted to salt crystals and were sent to Kaminsky who then, with the help of X-ray crystallography, determined the exact configuration of the molecules.

"Now that we know which hand belongs to which molecule, we can determine which molecule goes to which bitterness taste in beer," Kaminsky said.

The paper highlights the fact that excessive beer consumption cannot be suggested to propagate good health. Isolated humulones and their derivatives can be prescribed with documented health benefits.

The findings are published in this month's journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

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