Major League baseball is in full “swing.” And of course, no trip to the ballpark is complete without the constant refrain of “Beer here!” from stadium vendors.
Turns out, drinking beer is not only a relaxing way to watch a baseball game, it also protects your brain from neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s. It even boosts your brain power and creativity. I’ll tell you all about that new research in a moment, but first, let’s back up…
Our ancestors drank beer to avoid disease
For much of human history, public water contained so many dangerous microbes, you couldn’t safely drink it. Not even horses would drink it. So humans learned to make beer from grains, wine from grapes, and cider from apples. Beer contained just enough alcohol to kill the disease-inducing microbes in the water.
To make the alcohol in beer, you allow yeast (like a “brewers’ yeast”) to interact metabolically with grains. You also use yeast, of course, to make leavened bread and baked products. The metabolic action of yeast produces gases that “rise” through the dough, creating air pockets and the typical texture of bread. They also make the bubbles in beer.
Some anthropologists — including my professor and a faculty advisor at the University of Pennsylvania, Solomon Katz — believe the people of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and ancient Egypt first developed the yeast-grain interaction for the purpose of brewing beer, rather than baking bread. This theory makes sense, since grains haven’t been part of the human diet for long in terms of biological history.
Eventually, bread baking did take off. Remember the biblical reference to “thy daily bread”? But, as I pointed out in a previous Daily Dispatch, the Book of Ezekiel gives us a very low-carb bread recipe compared to the bleached flour of today’s typical bread concoctions.
Ezekiel 4:9 says, “Take thou also unto thee [whole] wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof.” These grains and legumes sprouted and, of course, contained no milled flour or preservatives.
This Biblical recipe contains plenty of amino acids (19 in total) and complete proteins, as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It certainly isn’t the highly processed white stuff the leads to Type II diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Today, you can find bread that resembles the Biblical recipe in the refrigerated section. They keep it there because it doesn’t contain preservatives and would go stale rather quickly on the shelf with all the other loaves they call bread. Imagine how much healthier we’d be today if we ate Ezekiel bread (and restricted other grain consumption to beer!)
Keep your brain hopping
Of course, beer contains another key ingredient: hops.
Hops grow as a vine. And, like many plants, it has potent biological effects. For instance, hops are powerful antimicrobial agents. Consequently, you add them to beer’s yeast-grain mixture during brewing to halt microbial action at just the right times.
Hops also account for the bitter taste of beer. In fact, that’s why the India Pale Ale (IPA) style of beer is so bitter. Originally, it was brewed with added hops to keep it from spoiling on its long, hot passage across the equator from England to India during the days of the British Empire.
One particular plant compound in hops, xanthohumol, even affects the brain.
Xanthohumol is a flavonoid, such as those found in berries, chocolate and red wine. Scientists study them for their many health benefits — including protection against cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammation.
Flavonoids also help give plants their colors. Xanthohumol imparts a yellow color, which helps give beer its familiar amber or golden hue. As I have written before, brightly colored compounds often signal that a plant has a wide array of potent biological properties. But scientific interest most frequently focuses on flavonoids’ antioxidant potential. That’s true with xanthohumol as well.
Hops protect brain cells
Recently, scientists treated brain cells exposed to oxidative stress with xanthohumol from hops.
The researchers found that xanthohumol neutralized damaging, oxidant chemical compounds in the cells. It also “turned on” the cells’ cytoprotective genes that shield cells against oxidative stress-related diseases such as cancer, dementia and inflammation.
We already know oxidative damage contributes to the development of brain diseases. So the researchers believe xanthohumol is a potential candidate for fighting neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases because it stops this oxidative damage. (You can also learn about the common drugs linked to these neurodegenerative diseases in the lead story of the July 2016 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter.)
Of course, these findings don’t mean that consuming large quantities of beer is good for the brain. Moderation in all things, as I always say. But I have often wondered whether the moderate alcohol levels in beer are one key to its health benefits.
Beer is “just right” for sparking creativity
According to another recent study, researchers from the University of Chicago determined the average person reaches his or her “creative peak” with a blood alcohol level of 0.075 percent.
But for simplicity’s sake, let’s round off that number. So let’s say you reach your maximum creative level at the rounded 0.08 percent. Interestingly, in every U.S. state, you are considered legally intoxicated at that level in terms of your ability to operate a motor vehicle.
In forensic medicine, we classify the 0.08 percent blood alcohol level as the “euphoria” state of intoxication. This state typically includes sociability, talkativeness, increased self-confidence, and decreased inhibitions, with some diminution of attention, control and judgment. There is some loss of motor efficiency, though you can only detect it on finer tests of physical performance.
It would be fair to say that most forensic medical examiners would also agree there is an increased level of “creativity” that accompanies these other well-known effects. (For a dramatic example, see Cary Grant’s performance as Roger O. Thornhill, in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1959 movie North by Northwest.)
An advertising agency in Copenhagen worked with Denmark’s Rocket Brewing to actually design a beer to bring about this creative peak in drinkers. They dub the beer “The Problem Solver.”
It is a craft IPA brew (remember how India Pale Ale has lots of hops) with an alcohol content of 7.1 percent. (The “point 1” shows the precision governments require in warnings about beer compared to warnings about drugs.)
This beer is stronger than average. So the label comes with a chart showing how many beers, over how long (depending upon your weight) you should consume to attain the magic, “creativity-inspiring” number of 0.08 percent.
Of course, there is nothing magic about this beer. Forensic scientists have charts of how many alcoholic drinks per hour lead to various blood alcohol levels. As I have written before, to keep your alcohol levels in the “euphoria” range but below the legal limits, consume only one to two drinks per hour and let your liver keep up.
As for the neuroprotective benefits of beer, you can follow the same moderation guidelines established for other alcoholic beverages. One or two drinks a day should do the trick.
You can learn about all about the brain benefits of beer the as well as many other simple steps to support brain health and memory in my new Complete Alzheimer’s Cure online learning protocol. In this protocol, you’ll learn how natural approaches like moderate alcohol consumption, eating right, taking supplements, exercising, and incorporating mind-body techniques reversed Alzheimer’s disease in a whopping 90 percent of people in a recent study.
And in the meantime, go ahead and watch the game tonight, even if it’s not the Sox, and enjoy an IPA beer while you’re at it.
”Xanthohumol, a Polyphenol Chalcone Present in Hops, Activating Nrf2 Enzymes To Confer Protection against Oxidative Damage in PC12 Cells.” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2015, 63 (5), pp 1521–1531
“Finally, a beer that will solve your creative problems,” Fast Company (www.fastcocreate.com), 12/18/14