Beer for the Prevention of Prostate Cancer?

In a recent study conducted by researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, drinking beer was shown to have potential promise in preventing prostate cancer and prostate enlargement, says an Oregon State University press release.

Recently published in the journal Cancer Letters, the paper “Xanthohumol, a prenylflavonoid derived from hops induces apoptosis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation in prostate epithelial cells,” the research shows that xanthohumol, a compound found in hops, inhibits NF-kappaB protein in cells along the surface of the prostate gland, According to Emily Ho, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise sciences in OSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, the protein acts like a signal switch that turns on a variety of animal and human malignancies, including prostate cancer.

“We’ve shown that the addition of xanthohumol in a cell culture blocks the signal of NF-KappaB protein and works to slow down the growth of benign prostatic hyperplasia and malignant prostate cancer cells,” Ho said.

According to the study, there is increasing evidence that certain natural compounds found in plants, such as the natural hops found in beer, may be useful as cancer preventative or therapeutic agents. The purpose of the study was to study the effects of xanthohumol, one of these natural compounds found in hops, on prostate cancer and enlargement. (Colgate, EC et al., Cancer Letters; in press)

Xanthohumol, which belongs to a group of plant compounds called flavonoids, can also trigger programmed cell death, which plays a role in cancer prevention, as uncontrolled cell reproduction is a cause of cancer. According to the OSU study, there is a specific protein in the cells of the surface of the prostate gland, and “behaves like a switch,” turning on a variety of cancers, including prostate cancer. The compound xanthohumol inhibits that switch.

Unfortunately, however, cracking a beer and toasting to a healthy prostate is not indicated by the results of this study. There is such a minute amount of xanthohumol present in beer hops that, according the the OSU press release, one would have to consume more than 17 beers in order to match the amount found in the study to be effective. Clearly using the consumption of beer as a form of prostate enlargement and cancer prevention would only lead to other negative health consequences, such as alcoholism, kidney and liver damage, and weight gain.

The information will be more useful as a means for possible direction for pharmaceutical development, potentially providing the information that may lead to a new pill to combat prostate cancer and prostate enlargement, containing concentrated doses of xanthohumol, says Fred Stevens, paper co-author and assistant professor of medicinal chemistry in OSU’s College of Pharmacy. Additionally, he adds, researchers could work to increase the xanthohumol content of hops.

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