Fatty liver disease: The ingredient found in beer that may help treat it

About one in three people are estimated to have early stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in the UK. These stages are characterised by having small amounts of fat in the organ. The condition is generally common in people who are “overweight or obese”, the NHS reports.

With all of the evidence highlighting the dangers of alcohol, many might be surprised by the research, showing a very specific benefit of a certain beer ingredient.

A new study from Oregon State University found that two compounds that originate from hops could help prevent hepatic steatosis.

Hepatic steatosis is defined as fat of at least five percent of liver weight, according to US National Library of Medicine.

In case you’re not familiar with hops, they are the plants that give beer its signature colour and flavour.

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The study published in eLife found that the two compounds are xanthohumol (XN) and tetrahydro-xanthohumol (TXN).

XN is a type of flavonoid produced by hops and TXN is a hydrogenated derivative of XN. 

These compounds can mitigate the build-up of fat in the liver caused by diet.

While the early stages of NAFLD don’t cause harm in most cases, if it gets worse, they could lead to “serious liver damage”, the NHS reports.

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Also, too much fat in your liver has been linked with a higher risk of serious conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.

But these compounds might be able to fight the fat build-up, as reported by the study.

The research looked at 60 mice, which were assigned different diets.

These consisted of either a low-fat diet, high-fat diet, high-fat diet with XN, high-fat diet with more XN, or a high-fat diet with TXN. 

The NHS warns even though NAFLD is not caused by alcohol, drinking could actually make it worse. 

Adrian Gombart, professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the OSU College of Science and a principal investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute said: “We demonstrated that TXN was very effective in suppressing the development and progression of hepatic steatosis caused by diet.

“TXN appeared to be more effective than XN perhaps because significantly higher levels of TXN are able to accumulate in the liver.

“But XN can slow the progression of the condition as well, at the higher dose.”

 

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