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Beer Ingredient May Prevent Tooth Decay, Gum Disease

Update Date: Mar 05, 2014 04:44 PM EST

An ingredient in beer may help prevent cavities and gum disease, according to a new study.

Scientists found that a part of hop leaves, which gives beer its bitterness and smell, may contain healthy antioxidants that could be used to fight tooth decay.  They noted that part of hops is discarded in beer brewing and isn't used for making beer.

Researchers said they've discovered some of the substances that could be responsible for these health benefits.

Lead researchers Yoshihisa Tanaka found that antioxidant polyphenols, contained in the hop leaves (called bracts) could help prevent cavities and gum disease. Tanaka and his team found that that extracts from bracts prevented cavity- and gum-disease-causing bacteria from sticking to surfaces and releasing bacterial toxins.

Researchers said the latest study suggest that bracts could be repurposed for dental health. They noted that farmers harvest about 2,300 tons of hops in the U.S. every year. However, these bracts are not used for brewing beer and discarded.

Because there has been little or no research on the compounds in bracts, researchers wanted to study what substances in the plant might benefit health.

After using a laboratory technique called chromatography, researchers identified three new compounds, one already-known compound identified for the first time in plants and 20 already-known compounds that were identified in hops for the first time.

Researchers also found a significant amount of antioxidants called proanthocyanidins in bracts.

The findings are published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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