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A new animal study suggests xanthohumol, a flavonoid found in hops and beer, may be effective at decreasing LDL cholesterol and other markers of metabolic syndrome.
A flavonoid in beer may be effective at improving several underlying markers of metabolic syndrome, according to a new animal study conducted at Oregon State University (OSU; Corvallis, OR). Researchers found that xanthohumol, a prenylated flavonoid found in hops, significantly decreased plasma levels of glucose, total triglycerides, total cholesterol, and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) in mice consuming a high-fat diet.
The study included 48 mice aged 9 weeks at the study's outset that were fed a high-fat diet (60% kcal as fat) for 12 weeks. In addition, researchers also supplemented the mice’s diet with either 0, 30, or 60 mg of xanthohumol per kg of body weight per day.
On top of the aforementioned improvements to several markers of metabolic syndrome, such as glucose levels and triglycerides, the mice taking 60/mg/kg/day of xanthohumol experienced an 80% reduction in plasma LDL cholesterol, a 78% reduction in interleukin 6 (IL-6, a cytokine involved in inflammation), a 42% reduction in insulin, and a 41% reduction in leptin levels, compared to the control group.
While the weight of the animals increased in each treatment group, the weight of the animals receiving xanthohumol increased by 22% less than in the control group, with a dose-dependent decrease observed from the different dose levels of xanthohumol.
“This is the first time we’ve seen one compound with the potential to address so many health problems,” said Cristobal Miranda, PhD, lead author of the study and research assistant professor at OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute. “Those were very dramatic improvements.”
But before beer drinkers celebrate too much at the news that a flavonoid in hops may be effective at improving markers of metabolic syndrome, they should note that 60 mg/kg of xanthohumol per day would require an equivalent of approximately 3,500 pints of beer per day for a 155-lb person to obtain the studied amount through beer alone, according to the study announcement.
Potential Mechanism of Action?
For the first time, the study also shed light on one potential mechanism of action explaining xanthohumol’s effect on cholesterol levels. Blood levels of proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK-9), a protein that plays a role in cholesterol levels, were found to be 44% lower in the 60-mg group compared to the control group. This may account for the lowering of LDL cholesterol in the xanthohumol group, researchers noted.
Further studies will be necessary to explore the safety of xanthohumol at high doses, but Fred Stevens, PhD, another author of the study, noted that dosages 15-30 times higher than those used in this study have been given to animals in the past “with no apparent problems.”
“After further study, this might provide an effective treatment for metabolic syndrome at a very low cost,” said Stevens.
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Miranda CL et al., “Xanthohumol improves dysfunctional glucose and lipid metabolism in diet-induced obese C57BL/6J mice,” Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, vol. 599 (June 2016): 22–30