By Anastasia Stephens
Last updated at 10:08 PM on 16th January 2010
Headstart for health: Beer can protect against prostate cancer
It might be your preference to crack open a bottle of red wine at the end of a hard day but you may be better off pouring a pint.
Researchers at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg have discovered that beer contains a powerful molecule that helps protect against breast and prostate cancers.
Found in hops, the substance called xanthohumol blocks the excessive action of testosterone and oestrogen. It also helps to prevent the release of a protein called PSA which encourages the spread of prostate cancer.
Scientists have long known that substances in hops help to block oestrogen. This is the first time, however, that they have been found to also inhibit testosterone.
'Research is still early but in trials we hope to further demonstrate that xanthohumol actively prevents prostate cancer development,' says Clarissa Gerhauser of the Heidelberg centre. If successful, xanthohumol may one day be developed as a cancer-fighting drug.
So which brews are likely to be richest in xanthohumol?
'Hops give beer its bitter flavour, so traditional bitters and ales will contain far more of this substance than light lagers,' explains Ben McFarland, author of the World's Best Beers.
Beers highest in hops, he says, are India pale ales such as those made by the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, South-East London. First brewed in the 1800s, these ales were made with high levels of hops to act as a natural preservative for export.
Ales such as Sharp's and local bitters will also be hop-rich, containing around three to four times more than a typical light lager. Drinks such as Guinness owe their dark colour to malt and contain moderate levels of hops.
Alcohol Concern warns you should only drink beer within recommended limits - two to three units a day for women, three to four units for men.