eer isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when people think of foods and drinks that may be beneficial for health. But a team of researchers has now found that a compound in beer hops may offer protection against Alzheimer's disease (AD).

In their work, published in the American Chemical Society's ACS Chemical Neuroscience, researchers had a closer look at the "chemical variability" of four common hop varieties: Cascade, Saaz, Tettnang and Summit.

One of the factors that make AD so difficult to treat is the "time lag" of several years that's between the biological processes of the disease and the onset of symptoms, ACS explained in a news release. By the time the person realizes they may have the disease, "irreversible damage" may have already occurred.

"In this scenario, the prevention of AD rather than treatment can represent an important strategy," the researchers wrote. "Among the preventive interventions, diet is one of the most promising ones because the intake of foods or nutraceuticals containing natural molecules can interfere with key biochemical events underlying aging in both physiological and pathological conditions."

"Nutraceuticals" are foods or parts of food that have medical or health benefits. And hop, one of the main ingredients of beer, can interrupt the collection of amyloid beta proteins linked with AD. Further, previous studies showed that consuming bitter hop acids can improve "cognitive function, attention, and mood in older adults."

Researchers have now found the hop extracts actually had antioxidant properties and may prevent the clumping of amyloid beta proteins in human nerve cells, with the "most successful" variety being Tettnang.

"(W)e fractionated the extracts to identify a pool of molecular components mainly responsible for their neuroprotective action," the researchers wrote. "According to our data, they are feruloyl and p-coumaroylquinic acids, flavan-3-ol glycosides, and procyanidins."

The hop extracts also prevented cell death due to oxidative stress, the researchers noted. And when they tested the Tettnang extract activity on a C. elegans worm model, it actually protected the creatures from "AD-related paralysis," although the effect was "not very pronounced."

While this doesn't mean people have an excuse to drink a lot of their favorite hoppy beer, it shows hop's potential as a nutraceutical for AD.

"Our results show that hop is a source of bioactive molecules with synergistic and multitarget activity against the early events underlying AD development," the researchers added. "We can therefore think of its use for the preparation of nutraceuticals useful for the prevention of this pathology."