Give me the choice between a good beer or a glass of wine, and I’ll take beer any day. Whether at parties, BBQs, clubs, restaurants, or game nights with friends, most people can agree that beer is a drink worth drinking. According to new research, it’s not just the alcohol in the beer that makes you feel good.
A team of researchers from the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg discovered that there’s an ingredient in beer that stimulates the reward center in the brain. This ingredient, named hordenine, is found in beer and malted barley, increases the production of dopamine—specifically in the reward center of the brain where D2 (a dopamine neurotransmitter) is located.
The researchers set up a database of more than 13,000 molecules found in common foodstuffs for the purpose of finding molecules that fit the dopamine D2 receptor. Of the 13,000, only 17 were discovered to be truly effective at activating the neurotransmitter.
“In contrast with dopamine, hordenine activates the receptor solely through G proteins, potentially leading to a more prolonged effect on the reward center of the brain.”
Hordenine was one of the 17, thanks to the fact that it stimulates the D2 receptor. However, it doesn’t work quite like dopamine. The researchers described it, “In contrast with dopamine, hordenine activates the receptor solely through G proteins, potentially leading to a more prolonged effect on the reward center of the brain.”
The researchers are still diving deeper into this fascinating molecule, specifically trying to determine if a beer has enough hordenine to cause significant effects on the brain’s reward center.
Either way, it’s fascinating to discover that this molecule plays a role in the mood-boosting effects of beer. However, you need to understand the way it makes you feel good.
According to the research, “Some foods make us…feel good. That is why we cannot stop eating when we have had enough. Scientists call this hedonic hunger – the drive to eat for pleasure rather than to satisfy an actual biological need. This feel-good effect is caused by the neurotransmitter dopamine – tempting foods stimulate the reward center in the brain where the dopamine D2 receptor is located.”
So, what this means is that beer stimulates the pleasure center of our brain, but it does so in a way that makes us want more beer. This may be the reason behind why one beer usually leads to more—it’s our brain’s reaction to the hordeine and other mood-boosting molecules.
Scientific Reports: Sommer, Thomas; Hübner, Harald; El Kerdawy, Ahmed; Gmeiner, Peter; Pischetsrieder, Monika; Clark, Tim. “Identification of the Beer Component Hordenine as Food-Derived Dopamine D2 Receptor Agonist by Virtual Screening a 3D Compound Database.” Scientific Reports (2017), 7: 44201.