What's the Latest Development?

Researchers at the University of Washington have determined the molecular structure of certain compounds found in beer that give the brew its bitter flavor. Led by Werner Kaminsky, associate professor of chemistry, scientists "used a process called X-ray crystallography to figure out the exact structure of those acids, humulone molecules, and some of their derivatives, produced from hops in the brewing process." That structure is important to researchers who want to incorporate those substances, and their health effects, into new pharmaceuticals.

What's the Big Idea?

Exactly which form humulone molecules take determines what is called the molecule's "handedness," according to Kaminsky, and that is important to understanding how the molecule would react with other chemicals in a drug development process. The authors of the study point out that while "excessive beer consumption cannot be recommended to propagate good health, isolated humulones and their derivatives can be prescribed with documented health benefits." Beer and its bittering acids, in moderation, have beneficial effects on diabetes, some forms of cancer, inflammation, and perhaps even weight loss.

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