Beer-lovers rejoice! Researchers have found that a key ingredient in beer may actually improve memory. But before you go binging this Oktoberfest, you might want to know about one catch.

According to a study published in Behavioral Brain Research, hops can help improve cognitive function. Hops are derived from the flower of the hop plant and are among the basic ingredients needed to brew beer. It gives beer its bitterness to counter the malt sweetness to create the balanced flavor of the brew. It is also a preservative.

Xanthohumol, a flavonoid which helps slow down the degradation process of memory in animals and humans, is only found in hops and was the focus of a study on how it can help boost brain power.


The study conducted by researchers from Oregon State University suggests that the compound works by theoretically reducing palmitoylation, a protein associated with memory. In lab tests, mice were put on a dietary supplement of Xanthohumol for eight weeks and were made to run mazes, like the Morris water navigation task, to record their improvement and memory of the track.

The results showed that young mice showed improvement in their brains, while older mice did not display any change.

"Xanthohumol can speed the metabolism, reduce fatty acids in the liver and, at least with young mice, appeared to improve their cognitive flexibility, or higher level thinking," said Daniel Zamzow from the University of Wisconsin.

The results in the young mice suggest the importance of starting young to benefit from a balanced, healthy diet, according to Kathy Magnassun, who led the study.

She added that children would benefit most from a nutritious diet in order to optimize memory formation.

The team hopes that further research into how Xanthohumol can affect the brain will lead to its use in future therapies and new medicines for patients with memory degradation and cognitive disorders.

Unfortunately for beer drinkers who want to reach the same levels of Xanthohumol used on the mice and therefore gain the same benefits in improved spacial memory and cognitive flexibility, they would need to drink at least 2,000 liters of beer.

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