Beer Hops May Help Prevent Cancer

Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
March 15, 1998

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) -- Compounds found in the plant called hops, used to flavor and preserve beer, may help protect against cancer, researchers say.

Studies indicated the compounds, called flavonoids, helped inhibit an enzyme called cytochrome P450 that can activate the cancer process.

Oregon State University scientists also found that some of the flavonoids helped enhance the impact of a class of enzymes, called quinone reductase, that can block cancer-causing substances that already have been activated.

``We treated human breast, colon and ovarian cells that were cancerous with concentrations (of flavonoids) that were not harmful to normal cells and found that some of the hops flavonoids were toxic to cancer cells,'' said Donald Buhler, an agricultural chemist and lead researcher.

The substance in the hops flavonoids most toxic to cancer cells is named xanthohumol, he said.

Buhler warned the research should not be used to endorse more beer consumption. ``I wouldn't encourage people to drink more,'' he said.

``Obviously there's a downside to drinking. But these results are really interesting. If these things really prove to be beneficial it might be possible to find a way to get them to people in capsules or some other concentrated form.''

His findings recently were reported in Seattle at the annual meeting of the international Society of Toxicology.

The report came as Oregon farmers considered a ban on hop imports from Washington state's Yakima Valley to protect from a potentially devastating mildew disease.

Sean McGee, director of Hop Growers of America, based in Yakima, Wash., said Northwest hop-producing regions were free of powdery mildew until a strain of the disease struck Washington last year.

In 1993 state agriculture departments in Oregon, Washington and Idaho imposed quarantines on hops imports to prevent powdery mildew from infecting the Northwest, which now produces virtually all of the hops grown in the United States.

Ann George of the Washington Hop Commission said the disease wiped out the East Coast hop industry decades ago and has been known to cause crop losses as high as 80 percent in Europe.

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