Beer makes you happy: German scientists link beer to brain’s happiness receptors | VailDaily.com

Beer makes you happy: German scientists link beer to brain’s happiness receptors

There is beer for all tastes at Vail Brewing Company tasting room on Saturday, Dec. 30, in Vail Village.

Benjamin Franklin famously said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Science has proved him correct … still.

A team of German scientists examined more than 13,000 molecular food compounds, looking for substances that may activate dopamine receptors in the same way that actual dopamine does.

In other words, food that makes you happy.

They found one in beer, a drink so noble that it is thought that beer was the nectar of the gods sipped by the Greek god Zeus from his goblet.

"Drink. Be merry," commanded Zeus, or at least that's what author Giando Sigurani quotes Zeus as saying, and that's good enough for us.

Recommended Stories For You

Sigurani makes perfect sense because the Greeks invented philosophy, democracy and fermentation — or beer — which all tend to attract people with time on their hands.

And that leads us back to our German scientists and their beer and happiness study.

Key ingredient in beer

As the six German scientists meticulously worked their way through their 13,000 molecular food compounds, they discovered that malted barley — a key ingredient in beer — is loaded with hordenine.

Hordenine activates dopamine receptors in the brain.

Hordenine also triggers a process called "hedonic hunger," which makes humans want to eat or drink for pleasure, as opposed to simply feeding because you're hungry or thirsty.

That sends feel-good chemicals — dopamine — to the decision-making bit of your brain, the German scientists found.

"Based on its presence in beer, we suggest that hordenine significantly contributes to mood-elevating effects of beer," the study's authors say.

Generally, the scientific method leads us toward what we thought we would find when we started our quest. However …

"It came as a bit of a surprise that a substance in beer activates the dopamine D2 receptor," said Professor Monika Pischetsrieder, the study's lead author.

The study's title is catchy: "Identification of the Beer Component Hordenine as Food-Derived Dopamine D2 Receptor Agonist by Virtual Screening a 3-D Compound Database." The scientists are from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nurnberg.

"Bioactive food components with the potential to modulate dopaminergic pathways may be able to change the rewarding properties of food," the study says.

The study says lots and lots of stuff like that.

However, it also warns that all that glitters is not golden lager.

"Hordenine is a natural constituent of barley and, in particular, beer, a food that is often linked to alcohol abuse," the scientists warn.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Beer = Happiness. Here’s why

• Hordenine is abundant in malted barley, a key ingredient in brewing beer.

• When consumed, hordenine activates dopamine receptors in your brain.

• That triggers a surge of feeling good.

Source: Identification of the Beer Component Hordenine as Food-Derived Dopamine D2 Receptor Agonist by Virtual Screening a 3D Compound Database.