Beer and Nrf2

Beer and Nerf? What?? No, not Nerf as in the spongy balls you used to play with as a kid. I’m talking about Nrf2, an enzyme found in the nucleus of our cells that turns on our “survival genes” which rev up the production of antioxidant enzymes. Why am I writing about this, and what does it have to do with beer? I’m glad your inner voice is paying attention. Turns out the hops you’re drinking in your favorite brew might actually be helping your health.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the health benefits of drinking red wine (made famous by the French who seem to keep a diet filled with butter, fat, and bread, yet have one of the world’s lowest rates of heart disease, i.e. thanks to the red wine they have with their meals,) but a recent research paper, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry by the American Chemical Society, discovered a compound found in hops called xanthohumol is responsible for activating Nrf2.

The work was led by first author Juan Yao and colleagues. The researchers decided to study the compound xanthohumol which comes from the hops that are used to make beer. According to the authors this molecule “has received increasing attention due to its multiple pharmacological activities.” Beer is the primary way that humans become exposed to this compound.

Wait, it gets better. The study goes on to explain the results of a test done on cells grown in a dish called PC12, which act like brain cells (neurons.) Xanthohumol was found to have the ability to protect these cells against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress refers to the production of deadly free-radicals faster than the body can detoxify against them. It is a process that occurs in many disorders of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and in many other diseases, such as cancer. In cells grown in a dish, xanthohumol has been tested in several studies and it appears to prevent the formation of cancer.

Does this mean what I think it means?? Drink more beer! You could conclude that from reading this article, but then again, we already knew that based on the wisdom imparted by Cliff Clavin (of Cheers) about drinking more beer:

"Well ya see, Norm, it's like this... A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine; which is why you always feel smarter after a few beers."

Having a daily beer could be as healthy a choice as a glass of red wine, a fact that should make beer-lovers happy everywhere. Choose Nrf2. Choose style. Choose craft!

Riccardo Tarabelsi is the VP of Sales and Marketing for Fernson Brewing Company. When he’s not writing articles, he’s activating his Nrf2. Contact Riccardo at Fernson Brewing Company reminds you to drink responsibly.


Riccardo is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Fernson Brewing Company.