A research team from Tokushima University discovered that a substance found in hops can prevent the deterioration of muscle tissue.  The breaking down of muscles in old age is a leading cause of elderly people being confined to a bed.

This is great news if only a beer or two would do the trick.  Unfortunately, to harness the anti-aging effects of ale you’d have to drink enough to kill you several times over.

The research team led by Prof. Junji Terao carried out experiments on incapacitated rats such as ones with paralyzed legs.  They fed one group of mice food containing high levels of prenylated flavonoids.  Those mice were found to have retained more muscle mass than a group of rats who ate normal food with regular flavonoids and another group who ate no flavonoids.

In addition the mice that ate the prenylated flavonoids had higher amounts of the protective substance stored in their cells – up to 10 times more than unprenylated ones.  This suggests that consuming prenylated flavonoids is far more beneficial than regular ones.

These types of flavonoids occur mostly in hops and beer.

However, to achieve the same effects on the scale of a human, one would have to eat 1kg (2lbs) of hops a day.  Since that would be really disgusting, we would rather consume them in beer form.  This way, one must drink anywhere from 83 to 20,000 litres (22-5000 gal) of beer per day to achieve the needed dosage of the prenylated flavonoid known as 8-prenylnarigenin (8-PN).

Although this could theoretically prolong our lives, we would ultimately spend it in a coma if we don’t die of acute alcohol poisoning first.  This is why the team is developing alternative way to ingest 8-PN.

According to Prof. Terao, “we can expect the development of drugs and health drinks enriched with prenylated flavonoids in the near future.”  His team is currently working on a health drink themselves.  They hope this can facilitate space travel by preventing muscular atrophy during zero gravity.

Making a health drink is all well and good, but since this substance is already present in beer, why not just up the quantity in that.  Then we can have a little fun while prolonging our muscles.

Source: PLOS One (English) via Nikkei (Japanese)

Here’s how to synthesize 8-PN from Xanthohumol for all you DIY chemists out there.