Hops May Reduce the Risk of Dementia

When we think of hops, we often think of beer. All beers use hops (at least to some degree) in their brewing process. A recent research study by the University of Milano-Bicocca tested four common varieties of hop flower extracts found in beer to see if they might impact reducing the risk of dementia. Specifically, this research focused on whether or not hops might aid in preventing what is known as brain protein clumping, which can result in Alzheimer’s disease.

What Is Protein Clumping in Relation to Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by dying nerve cells in a person’s brain. The death of these brain cells leads to progressive memory loss coupled with cognitive decline. As of this time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Case Western University New School of Medicine describes the process of protein clumping as a precursor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease:

In Alzheimer’s disease, clumps of a tau protein begin to form inside nerve cells in the brain. Brain accumulation of these aggregates is known as “neurofibrillary tangles.” Similar tangles of tau, which spread among nerve cells, are also associated with a host of other neurodegenerative diseases, collectively known as “tauopathies.”

In addition to resulting in Alzheimer’s disease, this process of protein clumping can also result in the following:

  • Pick’s disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy

Results of Research Study on the Relationship Between Hops and Alzheimer’s Associated Protein Clumping

In the research study mentioned a moment ago, scientists exposed the hops to amyloid proteins as well as human nerve cells in Petri dishes. The study revealed that the hops were able to block amyloid beta proteins from clumping around the cells. The hop extracts used in the study also triggered what they described as a renewal process which medically is known as autophagic pathways. Autophagic pathways occur when the human body breaks down and uses old cell parts to increase functional efficiency.

The research study concluded that Tettnang hops were the most effective at clearing protein clumps of the kind that can result in Alzheimer’s and the other diseases and conditions identified a moment ago. Tettnang hops are used in brewing many types of lagers and lighter ales.

As discussed later in this article, researchers make a crucial point about this study. They are not recommending people up their consumption of beer to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Higher consumption of alcohol is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. However, beyond beer, researchers indicated that hops could be the basis for different foods that could lessen the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. For example, hops currently can be found in some herbal teas. (It can also be found in some soft drinks. However, overall soft drinks are not recommended for an overall healthy diet. A poor diet is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.)

What Are Hops?

Hops are the flowers of the hop plant. Currently, hops are primarily used as a stability agent in the brewing of beer and as a bittering flavoring in foods and other beverages. Hops also are known to impart what is described as floral, fruity, or citrus aromas and flavors. Many types of hops are cultivated around the world. Different types of hops are used in varying styles of beer.

In addition to being used in beer brewing and certain foods and other beverages, hops are also used as an herbal medicine. It is used in a way similar to valerian. It is commonly recommended as a treatment for insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety.

On their own, hops are not particularly palatable. Hops are also difficult to digest. But when infused into food, they impart a flavor that some people find appealing.

Used sparingly or in herbal medicines, hops do not appear to have any side effects. The primary side effect of hops appears to be drowsiness. This is actually one of the reasons some people use hops as a means of combating insomnia.

Proven Ways to Lower Risk of Dementia

While it does appear that the use of hops may assist in lowering the risk of dementia for some people, drinking more hoppy beer is not the answer. As noted above, incorporating hops into other foods and beverages may be a course to consider as a tool for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and other conditions.

With that noted, there are some proven strategies that you can employ to reduce the risk of dementia. These include:

  • Control blood pressure
  • Address diabetes
  • Quit smoking
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Get physically active

Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

In conclusion, not only is it important to consider ways in which the risks associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can be reduced, but you also need to be able to recognize signs and symptoms indicative of Alzheimer’s disease. Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s are grouped into early, middle, and later stages of the disease.

Early Stage Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

The early stage signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and of other types of dementia, include:

  • Memory loss
  • Misplacing items
  • Forgetting the names of places and objects
  • Repeating themselves regularly
  • Asking the same question several times
  • Becoming less flexible and more hesitant to try new things

Middle Stage Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

There are a number of symptoms that commonly are associated with the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease. These include:

  • Increasing confusion and disorientation
  • Obsessive, repetitive, or impulsive behavior
  • Delusions
  • Problems with speech or language
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Changes in mood
  • Difficulty in performing spatial tasks, such as judging distances
  • Agnosia or loss of ability to identify objects

Later Stage Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Finally, the later-stage symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Difficulty in changing position or moving around without assistance
  • Considerable weight loss – although some people eat too much and put on weight
  • Gradual loss of speech
  • Significant problems with short and long-term memory