A new study shows hops can protect against breast cancer. But read on before you order another round.
Hops—a flowering plant that gives beer flavor—have all sorts of benefits. They serve as sleep aids, aid in postmenopausal relief, and, of course, help you secure that happy hour buzz. Now, word on the street is there could be a link between hops and breast cancer prevention, according to a new study published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
Many women, especially German women, turn to hops supplements as a natural way to deal with the ugly side effects of menopause (looking at you, hot flashes). Their thinking is the supplements have to be better than receiving hormone replacement therapy, which has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and breast cancer. (Psst...Here are 15 Everyday Things That Affect Your Breasts.)
But no one was sure what effect the hops supplements had on breast cancer (if any)—and that's what made study researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago start digging. They tested a form of hops extract on two lines of breast cells. "Our extract is an enriched hops extract that was designed to maximize the beneficial hops compounds," says Judy L. Bolton, Ph.D., professor and head of the department of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of the study. So, not the kind of hops supplements you could just buy on Amazon.
The researchers determined that the hops extract could reduce a woman's cancer risk. Specifically, a compound known as 6-prenylnaringenin helped boost certain pathways in cells that have been shown to prevent breast cancer. While the results are promising, Bolton notes the findings are preliminary and the long-term effects aren't yet clear. (Related: 9 Must-Know Facts About Breast Cancer)
Another buzz kill: Even though we're talking about hops, happy hour shouldn't be considered part of your breast-cancer prevention plan. "Beer would not have the same effects," Bolton says. "This hops extract is what is discarded when making beer." If the beneficial elements of hops do somehow end up in your glass, it'd be at such low levels that the anti-cancer effects wouldn't pull through. And, to make matters worse, studies have shown drinking alcohol can increase your breast cancer risk, so if you're really set on staying in the clear, you should actually consider cutting back on the beer.