Sunday, December 23, 2007

Remember - to drink more beer

Moderate beer intake may cut Alzheimer's risk

December 17, 2007 - The silicon content of beer may protect against the deleterious effects of aluminum on brain health, suggests a new study with mice from Spain.

The research taps into beer's silicon content, and reports that moderate consumption cut the uptake in the digestive tract of aluminum, a neurotoxin and recently linked as a possible causal factor for Alzheimer's.

The study, published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, reports that "moderate beer consumption… could perhaps be taken into account as a component of the dietary habits of the population."

The researchers from the University of Alcala in Madrid state however that "alcoholic beverage consumption needs to be kept within certain limits depending both on gender and on age and should never be promoted as a means of increasing certain nutrients, which can be obtained from other foodstuffs in the diet."


Previously, the potential health benefits of beer have focused on the flavonoid xanthohumol found in hops. Research has suggested that the compound could help prevent prostate cancer, but the scientists suggest supplements rather than beer for exploiting the potential benefits.

A reader of the piece, Thomas Fungwe, Ph.D. — a Nutrition Policy Analyst at the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion — had this to say in response:

Alzheimer disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized clinically by progressive cognitive impairment. Pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer disease in the brain include intracellular neurofibrillary tangles and deposits of aggregated amyloid-Beta protein (A-Beta) in neuritic plaques and cerebral vessels. The authors in this study did not measure any of the biological markers that one can truly show that Alzheimer disease is influenced by aluminum.

While we agree that the pathogenic mechanisms that lead to the development of Alzheimer, however, are not fully understood, it is for this reason that the Beverage industry should not seek to bring about publicity to studies that do not substantially tell us anything novel or compelling.

The question as to how much beer to consume in order to get the desired amount of silicon comparable to the amount fed to mice, weight for weight remains in the back of our minds.

Not understanding these issues — other than that of caregiver — I can't speak to Dr. Fungwe's assertions, except to agree that concentrating on only one pathway or marker may indeed be insufficient.

As well, it's always good to take such studies with a degree of skepticism; and it appears that this one may have been sponsored in some part by the alcoholic beverage industry. However that supposition does not, ipso facto, negate any or all of the study's conclusions.

The reticence (sometimes hostile) of a non-trivial portion of the medical and scientific establishments to accept the inescapable conclusion, taken from a preponderance of evidence over many studies, that alcoholic consumption in moderation can be part of a health-promoting diet, is a likewise fallacious stance.

On my website, I have collected a (very) limited amount of articles dealing with those healthful aspects, particularly as they relate to beer. Link here.

In October, I co-hosted a fundraiser for NARSAD, an organization that exists as a clearinghouse for mental health research. Jump to its website here.

Or, consider linking your computer in a Stanford University distributed computing effort, called Folding at Home, that hopes to understand the "mis-folding" of proteins, which is considered to be a cause of many neurodegenerative diseases.

In the meantime, remember ... to drink more beer ... in moderation!

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