Researchers at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) think they have discovered the protective power of hops.
A molecule in hops appears to strengthen a membrane formed from cells of the intestinal wall. This wall forms a barrier between what is ingested and what is absorbed and can prevent the absorption of bacteria and toxins.
The cells in the gut wall are connected by proteins, which create impenetrable intercell barriers known as tight junctions. Some illnesses, such as Crohn’s disease, or food intolerances, can damage this barrier.
With colleagues from Austria and Germany, Veronika Butterweck’s team at FHNW discovered that certain prenylflavonoids present in hops strengthen these intercell barriers and can even help repair them.
The experiments, done in vitro, employed electrical resistance measurements on a reconstituted membrane. In addition, the membrane was subjected to an inflammatory substance that simulates Crohn’s disease.
After several days they noticed that 8-Prenylnaringenin allowed the membrane to regenerate and restore its impenetrability. In addition, pretreatment with 8-Prenylnaringenin had a preventative effect against the inflammatory agent.
“Several studies already suggested that flavonoïdes have a positive effect on tight junctions” Ms Butterweck told ATS. For example kaempferol found in various fruits and vegetables can have a similar effect.
The beers with the highest levels of flavonoïdes are dark beers, like ales or porters and also pilsner. White beers have less.
Butterweck does not recommend increasing beer consumption to protect the gut wall.