Hey, beer drinkers, are you drinking the type of beer that might actually protect your liver?
Fatty liver disease is one of the biggest risk factors for alcohol drinkers. But a new study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism suggests that hops, an ingredient in bitter beers, may protect the liver by guarding against the build up of liver fat.
The study was done with mice. Researchers fed groups of mice three types of alcoholic beverage: beer with hops, beer without hops, and pure ethanol. The livers of mice that drank either straight-up ethanol or beer without hops showed significantly more fatty deposits than the livers of the hopped-up beer-drinking mice.
Researchers suspect that a compound in hops may have a protective antioxidant effect that helps minimize cell damage in the liver. The study concludes, in language about as clear as extra stout: "our data suggest that hops in beer markedly attenuated acute alcohol-induced liver steatosis in female mice through mechanisms involving a suppression of iNOS induction in the liver." Translation: the hops did it.
So then, what types of beer have more hops? Hops contribute bitter characteristics to the brew, so bitter beers like India Pale Ales (IPA) and Extra Special Bitter (ESB) will have hops in abundance. Lagers, less so. In fact, historically, India Pale Ales were given an extra helping of hops as a way to preserve them so they could withstand the long sea journey to India. For specific recommendations, check out this comprehensive list from Brewpublic of the 50 Must Try Hoppy Beers.