"On the basis of our new findings, beer must be added to the list of beverages with potentially anti-inflammatory components, but our findings must not be understood as an encouragement to drink alcohol," said lead researcher Professor Dietmar Fuchs from Innsbruck Medical University.
The study, published in the journal International Immunopharmacology (Vol. 6, pp. 390-395) studies the effects of different beer extracts, including light beer, wheat beer, and non-alcoholic beer, on the production of neopterin (a marker for inflammation) and levels of tryptophan (the hormone - low levels are associated with more inflammation).
The scientists used peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) isolated from whole blood cells. Inflammation was stimulated using phytohaemagglutinin (PHA).
"Beer was found to suppress degradation of trypophan and production of neopterin in PMBC stimulated with PHA," wrote Fuchs and his team.
The results showed that the type of beer was not important, and that a four per cent solution could reduce neopterin production by 65 per cent.
The authors could not identify the 'active' species in the beer, pointing out that beer contains nearly all the B vitamins, several minerals like potassium and magnesium, and several antioxidants like polyphenols.
"Humulone and isohumulone, the bitter substances derived from hops, may be of particular importance for the effects induced in our in vitro system," suggested the scientists.
The scientists were very careful to point out that the effects of the beer were unaffected by the alcohol content, since the non-alcoholic beer extract performed just as well as the alcohol alternatives.
The social and ethical considerations of proposing beer to reduce inflammation are complicated and suggest that beer extracts would be a better avenue of exploration.
Humulone and isohumulone, in particular, merit further study.