As patio season quickly approaches, I’m sure you are looking forward to enjoying a cold beer on a hot summer day.
The distinct flavor and aroma of the classic warm weather beverage are courtesy of an ingredient called hops, and without it, the interesting and refreshing crisp bitterness—that beer provides to so many—wouldn’t exist.
But hops do more than just give beer a distinct taste. Researchers recently discovered they also serve important health benefits. But before you go out and buy a case of beer, please note that unfortunately these qualities are found in the discarded part of hops not included in your favorite brews.
Researchers found that bracts, an antioxidant in hop leaves, have the ability to battle mouth conditions like cavities and gum disease. The team noted extracts from bracts halted the growth of bacteria responsible for these two conditions by preventing the release of bacterial toxins, making them unable to stick to surfaces and cause cavities and gum disease.
This development could have a major impact on oral care by offering the public an effective natural treatment to extremely common ailments that are expensive to treat. For example, half of Americans over age 30 have periodontal disease (gum disease), while most people have at least one cavity. If they don’t, they likely know somebody who can make up the difference.
Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease impacting the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. It makes the gum appear swollen around the tooth, and, if left long enough, can lead to losing a tooth in the affected area. Gum disease is also associated with other chronic inflammatory diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Treating these conditions is a relatively easy and routine procedure for dentists, but you’d never know it by the cost. I recently had two fillings replaced and it cost close to $500, so it’s definitely not cheap to handle these common problems.
Every year, farmers harvest roughly 2,300 tons of hops for beer production, but the bracts are discarded. This leftover waste could easily be repurposed and either sold directly to customers, or to dentists to use as part of a routine cleaning. This could be a cheap way to improve oral hygiene. All that has to happen now is for someone to recognize this great business opportunity and bring bracts to the market.
It’s important to practice strong oral hygiene because it can save you time, money, and, of course, prevent disease. It only takes a few minutes a day to floss and brush your teeth and the benefits are almost immeasurable. Just be sure that you’re thorough. Brush at least twice a day for a few minutes at a time, making sure you get all your teeth from side to side and front to back. Floss at least once per day to remove all the food particles you miss with your brush. These particles can become embedded in your gums and spread bacteria leading to gingivitis, gum disease, and cavities.
American Chemical Society, “Hop leaves—discarded in beer brewing—have substances that could fight dental disease,” Science Daily web site, March 5, 2014; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140305125146.htm, last accessed March 10, 2014.
“CDC: Half of American Adults Have Periodontal Disease,” American Academy of Periodontology web site, August 30, 2012; http://www.perio.org/consumer/cdc-study.htm, last accessed March 10, 2014.