Health Benefits of Hops: Menopause & More

Humulus lupulus (hops) are best known for their role in beer, however, the flowers of the plant are also being investigated for their health benefits — in particular, those which affect women.

In 1999, a potent phytoestrogen, 8-prenylnaringenin, whose activity was stronger than that of other phytoestrogens, was found in Humulus lupulus.1

Phytoestrogens found in plants can have estrogenic or antiestrogenic effects due to their ability to occupy estrogen receptor sites, thereby blocking estrogen made in the body. This may enable some plant compounds to provide some of the benefits of estrogen while blocking some of their adverse effects.

While 8-prenylnaringenin has strong estrogenic activity, the authors of one study point out that the concentration needed to stimulate the vaginal epithelium of ovariectomized mice (female rodents whose ovaries have been removed) was about 500 times greater than that of any beer, which helps to alleviate concerns regarding potential adverse effects.2

Indeed, another study that utilized ovariectomized rodents found lower levels of serum estrogen after supplementation with hops, in addition to a reduction in insulin, serum free fatty acids, and malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress.3 Hops have also been found to contain resveratrol, an antioxidant compound that has elicited some of the effects of calorie restriction.4

(H)optimize Your Cells

Xanthohumol, another hops compound, has been shown to help prevent the initiation, promotion, and progression stage of carcinogenesis.5 Among xanthohumol's properties are inhibition of cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and COX-2 enzymes, which have inflammatory effects, as well as an ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species. When tested in cultured mouse mammary gland tissue, xanthohumol prevented carcinogen-induced precancerous lesions.

Another investigation of the effects of xanthohumol, isoxanthohumol, and 8-prenylnaringenin found an ability to decrease estrogen synthesis.6 In prostate cancer cells and benign prostate hyperplasia cells, xanthohumol decreased cell viability, increased apoptosis, and dampened the activation of nuclear factor-kappa beta which, when dysregulated, has been associated with cancer, inflammation, and other conditions.7 In human colon cancer cells, treatment with xanthohumol also induced apoptosis by downregulating an anti-apoptotic protein and activating caspases.8

Hops for Menopausal Women

The first prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the ability of hop extract to alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause was reported in 2006.9 Sixty-seven menopausal women received a standardized hop extract or a placebo for 12 weeks. By six weeks, hot flash scores were reduced in women who received hops in comparison with the placebo. Interestingly, a lower dose of hops extract was more effective than a higher dose.

In ovariectomized rats that exhibited elevated skin temperature caused by estrogen withdrawal, as an animal model of menopausal hot flushes, 8-prenylnaringenin from hops reduced the animals' skin temperature after just two days of treatment.10 The effect was blocked by simultaneous administration of an estrogen receptor antagonist.

Results of a randomized trial of menopausal women reported in 2010 suggested superiority of a standardized hop extract in comparison with a placebo.11 The authors of the report conclude that: "[…]phytoestrogen preparations containing this standardized hop extract may provide an interesting alternative to women seeking relief of mild vasomotor symptoms."

Another randomized trial, reported in 2016, that compared the effects of hops to a placebo in women with early menopausal symptoms found a significantly lower number of hot flashes in hops-treated women and improved average Greene score (an assessment of menopausal symptoms) at 4, 8, and 12 weeks.12

Ovariectomized female rats given hops extract demonstrated increased sexual motivation.13 Since low libido is a frequent menopausal complaint, hops could be worth trying by women with this symptom.

Another menopausal complaint is poor sleep. A study of nurses who worked rotating or night shifts experienced better nighttime sleep quality after drinking nonalcoholic beer containing hops at dinnertime for fourteen days.14 Participants also reported a decrease in anxiety. Similar effects were found in university students who consumed nonalcoholic beer with dinner.15

Your Brain on Hops

Hops also show promise against another age-related condition: Alzheimer's disease. Screening of over 1,600 plant extracts by Japanese researchers resulted in the identification of hops as having the ability to inhibit amyloid beta, the toxic protein that accumulates in the brains of individuals afflicted by Alzheimer's disease.16

In a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, the researchers found that animals that received drinking water to which hops extract was added had decreased amyloid beta deposits in their brains and less memory impairment at 9 and 12 months than untreated mice.

Based on these findings, drinking beer in moderation may not be as bad as some have made it out to be. However, it's not necessary to increase one's alcohol intake to obtain the benefits of hops. Nonalcoholic beer and hops extract can be consumed on a regular basis without the concerns associated with alcoholic beverages.


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How Much Melatonin Should I Take?

Holli Lapes, RD, LD/N

Melatonin is a hormone that is primarily synthesized in the pineal gland and is released mostly at night.1 Many factors can disrupt the natural release of melatonin in the body. Also, melatonin production naturally declines with age, as is the case with other hormones.1,2

Melatonin can help people fall asleep but may also lead to a better quality of sleep.3 Additionally, melatonin has strong antioxidant properties and can protect cellular DNA and immune function.4

Melatonin is available as a dietary supplement in a liquid or capsule form, with doses varying anywhere from 300 mcg to 10 mg. With so many forms and dosages available, you may be wondering, which dose is right for me? Whether you are new to melatonin or just can’t seem to find a dose that works for you, we're here to help. Like other things in life, supplementation with melatonin could be a process of trial and error.

Some people who have tried melatonin report feeling groggy in the morning after use, which could be caused by an incorrect dose. Make sure when taking melatonin that you have at least 6 to 8 hours to spare for a good night’s sleep, since having to wake up sooner may be the reason for this side effect. Another side effect linked to taking too high a dose of melatonin; bad dreams.

Do You Have Difficulty Falling Asleep?

Anxiety, stress/elevated evening cortisol, and insomnia are among many reasons people have difficulty falling asleep. Shift workers and those with professions that require working hours outside of the norm can also struggle to fall asleep easily. Traveling and the time changes that accompany it may cause your sleep wake cycle to be interrupted as well.

Do you watch TV, use your computer, tablet or smart phone right before bed? The blue light that is emitted from these devices may be interfering with the body’s release of melatonin.5 Try to stay off these devices for at least one hour before bedtime.

Try this: fast-acting melatonin, taken orally as a liquid or pill. If you tend to be very sensitive to new supplements, start at the lowest dose of 300 mcg and titrate up as needed. If you are not particularly sensitive, try a dose of 1 to 3 mg and titrate up as needed.

Do You Have Difficulty Staying Asleep?

Try this: Timed-release melatonin - which works over a six-hour period to help you fall asleep and stay asleep until morning.

If you have trouble staying asleep, before you look to melatonin, you’ll want to ponder the question: Why? Some of the reasons that have already been discussed could play a role in both falling and staying asleep, but there are also a few separate reasons that people have trouble staying asleep, specifically.

Some reasons are gender-specific. For example, in men it could be frequent urination due to BPH or prostatitis. If this is the case, you’ll want to address the underlying cause. Frequent urination, incontinence, and urgency can occur in both men and women. In women, it could be due to changes in the bladder and hormone decline (estrogen, progesterone). Woman who are perimenopausal or postmenopausal will likely have inadequate progesterone levels. Progesterone is calming to the central nervous system and can promote normal sleeping patterns.

Again, seek to correct the underlying cause of the sleep disturbance and consider bioidentical hormone replacement.

No Sleeping Issues? Consider an Anti-Aging Dose of Melatonin

Although most people associate melatonin with sleep, there are a variety of health benefits from melatonin that go beyond sleep, such as brain protection . If the lower doses are well-tolerated, we suggest taking 10 mg for anti-aging benefits.


  1. Available at: Accessed September 1st 2016
  2. Available at: Accessed September 1st 2016
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3 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Prostate

Steven V. Joyal, M.D.

In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven society, we’re inundated with so much information on
healthy living choices that’s it can be difficult to determine fact from fad. Think about it: from the next things being extolled on Facebook to the barrage of pharmaceutical ads, it’s hard for the average Joe to make informed decisions about their health.

September is National Prostate Health Month, which means it’s a great time to make a concerted effort to cut through that confusion to focus on decisions and lifestyle approaches that can aid prostate health.

First of all, let’s be clear – talking about prostate health can be an uncomfortable subject for many guys out there, but it’s just too important of an issue to be ignored. This year, approximately 200,000 men will develop prostate cancer. Beyond that, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and one in 35 will die from the disease.

Those numbers are real – and terrifying - but if we can reset our minds on prostate health to one of general men’s health, we can focus on choices that prevent us from becoming a statistic. And the good thing is that many of the areas of focus for prostate health – diet, exercise, lifestyle choices and dietary supplements – are also key factors in general men’s health.

Diet for a Healthy Prostate

We know there is a direct correlation between a healthy diet and a healthy weight. Two dietary approaches – the traditional Japanese and Mediterranean diets – show some commonalities that are worth considering.

While the traditional Japanese diet tends to be high in green tea, fermented soy, rice, and fish, it also tends to be relatively low in calories and fat. The Mediterranean diet tends to be high in leafy green vegetables, garlic, tomatoes, red wine, olive oil, and fish, but also low in over-all calories in comparison to a traditional Western diet. Where do these traditional diets align? A significant focus on vegetables and fish, lower caloric intakes and less red meat. If men can shift their diets to include more vegetables and less red meat, they’ll see much healthier outcomes – as Michael Polian (author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) says: “Eat food. Not too much. Mainly plants.”

Making changes to increase the amount of vegetables you eat while reducing the amount of red meat and calories you consume will definitively improve your weight, but also your prostate health. A healthy weight and diet is one of the greatest factors in prostate health. While the average healthy and active male should consume 2400-3000 calories a day, a mere reduction of 500 calories can result in a healthy weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week. What does 500 calories look like? One bagel with cream cheese.

Prostate Friendly Lifestyle Choices

Beyond diet, there are many other choices we make on a day-to-day basis that impact our health. Some of these are easy, some not so much. These choices impact our overall health, but more importantly, can impact prostate health. Most physicians will tell you how important it is to exercise regularly, cut out tobacco, reduce alcohol intake and schedule regular doctor visits.

When it comes to exercise, you don’t have to be an Olympian or a triathlete – a mere 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 times a week will have tremendous impact on long-term health. This can be time at the gym, a good walk, or a variety of stay-at-home options, including yoga or basic calisthenics.

Anyone who has paid any attention to their health in the last 50 years knows that experts recommend reducing alcohol intake and eliminating tobacco consumption. First of all, there’s no such thing as healthy use. Tobacco use has been directly linked to cardiovascular illnesses such as emphysema, heart disease, and a variety of cancers.

Many were excited to hear about studies suggesting moderate alcohol intake can have heart-healthy effects, but the key word is MODERATE. For men, this means no more than 2 standard alcoholic drinks per day, and no more than 14 drinks per week. Just like intake of red meat or sugar, alcohol should be consumed in moderation – and don’t forget that alcoholic drinks havecalories (especially beer and mixed drinks) and that should be considered in your daily caloric intake. Wine and hard liquor (served neat, straight, or on the rocks) are better choices to minimize the caloric impact of alcoholic beverages.

Very few people enjoy going to the doctor. But for men concerned about prostate problems – especially men between the ages of 55 and 69 years - – regular doctor visits and blood tests can aid in early detection and treatment for prostate disease. The sooner you know, the better the chance of a good outcome. This is also true when it comes to the prostate; with regular appointments and screening, your doctor can detect, diagnose and treat potential issues sooner.

Dietary Supplements for Prostate Support

Dietary supplements can provide additional support for good health when combined with healthy lifestyle choices (for example, plant-based diet, regular exercise, smoking cessation, reducing or eliminating alcohol intake). For prostate health, some research suggests that beta sitosterol (a type of plant sterol), the mineral boron, vitamin D, lycopene (found in tomatoes), and pygeum extract may offer support for a healthy prostate.

Of course, before beginning any major lifestyle modification program, supplement routine, be sure to talk to your doctor about your ability to exercise safely, as well as the potential benefits & risks of specific dietary supplements if you are also taking prescription medications.

Putting It All to Work

When you really think about it, men’s health isn’t complicated. A plan that consists of healthy and reduced-calorie eating, regular exercise, and if appropriate, integration of nutritional supplements to support your health will go a long way to supporting a healthier, happier prostate – and life. Talk to your doctor today!

About the author:

Steven V. Joyal, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer for Life Extension®, the world’s leading organization dedicated to extending the healthy human life span. Prior to joining Life Extension, Dr. Joyal led pharmaceutical research efforts in cardiometabolic disease for Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute and Abbott Laboratories/Knoll Pharmaceutical Company in obesity.

Preceding his entry into the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Joyal was in clinical practice in Rhode Island, including affiliation with Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital. He also managed the Internal Medicine service at Butler Hospital and helped guide member care at the Care New England Wellness Centers in Warwick and East Providence.

Dr. Joyal is a graduate of the Dartmouth/Brown program in allopathic medical education. He is a sought-after authority on men’s health and has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals.


The Cost of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a costly disease, not only to the wallet, but to the body as well. With recent advances in medicine, the challenge in ridding the planet of this scourge is now a matter of economics rather than technology. Yes, hepatitis C is a costly but curable disease.

What we now know as hepatitis C (HCV) was first identified in 1989, when it was known as non-A, non-B hepatitis in order to differentiate it from the other known forms of the disease.

Stored blood samples from the 1940s have provided the earliest documented presence of the virus, but scientists agree that it has been around for much longer. Today, 130−150 million people are infected with HCV, resulting in approximately 700,000 deaths per year.

The Priceless Consequences of Hepatitis C

Failure to effectively treat hepatitis has caused increased incidences of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer,
and premature mortality.

There are also non-liver manifestations of the disease, such as eye problems,2,3 insulin resistance, and "brain fog" unrelated to the treatments given.

Hepatitis C Treatment Timeline

For many years, hepatitis C therapy centered on a combination of ribavirin and injectable pegylated alpha interferon, a therapy accompanied by significant side effects. Furthermore, the combination provided long-term viral clearance to only half of its users.

The approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of direct acting antiviral (DAA) drugs in 2011 has been met with unbridled enthusiasm, with some headlines proclaiming that their approval heralded the beginning of an era and the end of HCV. Early treatment with the DAAs telaprevir and boceprevir combined with interferon and ribavirin significantly improved patients' chances against the most common U.S. HCV genotype (type 1).

In 2014, Gilead Sciences' Harvoni®, a combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir, exploded on the scene with its one pill per day, eight−twelve week regimen that offers a 96% or higher cure rate for HCV genotypes 1, 4, 5, and 6. (Sofosbuvir, approved for hepatitis C in 2013, is sold alone as the drug Sovaldi® that, combined with ribavirin and/or interferon treats HCV genotypes 2 and 3, which are not treatable by Harvoni®.)

But there's just one catch. Harvoni®'s "I am ready" TV ads with its smiling actors neglect to mention that the drug currently costs $1,000 per pill.

Solvadi® and Harvoni® have attained blockbuster status. In 2015, the two drugs generated a total of $19.1 billion in combined sales. While 12 weeks of Solvadi costs U.S. consumers an estimated $85,000 (at an estimated cost to Gilead of $130) the same treatment with Harvoni® can cost over $94,000. It is no wonder that some insurance companies and states' Medicaid programs will only cover the cost of the drugs for patients with advanced disease, leaving many individuals with the choices of borrowing large sums of money, selling their homes, or going without treatment and facing an increased risk of cirrhosis or liver cancer.

While the need for pharmaceutical companies to recoup the astronomical costs of research and drug approval is acknowledged, it is interesting that in other countries, the price of these new therapies are significantly lower.

As of this writing, news has arrived of the approval of yet another potential HCV blockbuster. Gilead Sciences' Epclusa®, a combination of Sofosbuvir and Velpatasvir, not only treats all six HCV genotypes with a once-daily tablet, but is priced lower than Solvadi® and Harvoni® at $74,760 for a 12-week treatment course.

This latest "miracle drug" could herald the eventual end of combination therapy with ribavirin and/or interferon for many HCV patients, freeing a large number of individuals from prolonged and severe side effects. In a clinical trial involving participants with mild or no cirrhosis, 95% to 99% had no detectable virus in blood tests administered 12 weeks after finishing treatment with Epclusa®.4 Another trial that involved HCV patients with moderate to severe cirrhosis treated with Epclusa® and ribavirin resulted in no detectable viral load in 94% of the subjects.

Nutrients That Nourish Your Liver

For those faced with the challenging situation of having to wait for their insurance to authorize payment for these wonder drugs, there are supportive nutrients for the liver that can be used with a physician's approval. Silymarin, derived from milk thistle, has antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antifibrotic effects within the liver.5-8

The fruit of another plant, Schisandra, which has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, was found to inhibit HCV in an in vitro study that compared Schisandra berries to two other plant compounds present in a traditional Japanese formula.9

Quercetin, a flavonoid that occurs in apples, onions, and other plant foods, has been shown to reduce production of the HCV virus in two separate in vitro studies.10,11

Interestingly, drinking coffee has been associated with a reduced likeliness of liver fibrosis or cirrhosis.12 In this meta-analysis of 16 studies, the authors demonstrated that coffee consumption is associated with a 39% lower risk of cirrhosis compared to the risk experienced by those who did not drink coffee. When advanced hepatic fibrosis was evaluated, drinking coffee was associated with a 27% lower risk than not drinking the beverage. Subgroup meta-analysis of patients with HCV also affirmed a protective effect for coffee drinking12.

In a study of patients with chronic HCV, 38% of whom had advanced liver fibrosis, subjects without fibrosis were found to have a higher intake of caffeinated coffee, and a higher intake of caffeine from all sources.13 The authors of the study concluded that as little as 100 milligrams of caffeine per day could protect against advanced hepatic fibrosis in males with chronic HCV. In vitro, caffeine has been shown to inhibit HCV replication at nontoxic concentrations.14 In another study, the coffee compound known as caffeic acid inhibited the initial stage of infection by two HCV genotypes in studies in human liver cells.15

Despite the cost issue, it is exciting to be at a point in history where there is a cure for most cases of hepatitis C. We hope to witness similar breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and other chronic diseases in the near future.


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  2. Misiuk-Hojło M et al. Przegl Epidemiol. 2007;61(3):545-50.
  3. Zegans ME et al. Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2002 Dec;13(6):423-7.
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  15. Tanida I et al. Jpn J Infect Dis. 2015;68(4):268-75.


Aronia: A Berry You Need To Know About

You won’t find this berry in your parfait, and you may have never even heard of it. The berry you you need to know about is from the Aronia family of shrubs, which are native to North America.

The best-known fruit of Aronia are Aronia prunifolia and Aronia melanocarpa, known as black chokeberries due to their astringency.

Their dark pigmentation is the result of an abundance of polyphenols that include flavonoids, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants. Among berries, aronia is particularly high in these factors.1

Compared to elderberry, seven varieties of black and red currant, and six varieties of gooseberries, aronia has been shown in research to contain the highest total anthocyanin concentration and antioxidant capacity!2

Aronia and Cancer

Early investigation into the properties of aronia revealed that its flavonoids provided an anti-inflammatory effect.3 Interestingly, aronia's anti-inflammatory effect has been shown to be enhanced by the addition of selenium in research utilizing immune cells known as macrophages.4

In studies investigating the activity of aronia in human lymphocytes, inhibition of enzymes that activate promutagens has been shown.5 In rats given the colon carcinogen azoxymethane, an anthocyanin-rich extract of aronia resulted in a reduction in aberrant crypt foci (an early change in the colon that may precede colon cancer and colonic cell proliferation.6

In vitro research has found activity for aronia extract against treatment-sensitive and multidrug resistant leukemia cells.7 In breast cancer patients, whose oxidative stress levels are increased in comparison with healthy individuals, aronia extract reduced the production of superoxide anion radicals in blood platelets, as well as in the platelets from a group of healthy individuals.8

Aronia Can Help Your Organs

Other research has found a reduction in experimentally induced pancreatitis among rodents that received aroniaanthocyanins.9 In rats given a liver-damaging compound, aronia natural fruit juice reduced signs of damage and inhibited the elevation of liver enzymes and malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress.10

Aronia berries have also shown a protective effect against damage caused by alcohol intake to the gastric mucosa, which could be of value to alcoholics.11 Similar effects have been observed for aronia in the protection against gastric damage caused by the drug indomethacin which is accompanied by oxidative stress.12

Aronia for Athletes

Aronia also exerted a protective effect against oxidative damage to red blood cells in a group of athletes whose blood was tested before and after consuming the juice.13 Aronia lowered thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS, a byproduct of lipid peroxidation) in comparison with levels measured in a control group, which suggests that anthocyanins may help limit exercise-induced oxidative damage.

Other research involving elite triathletes given aronia-citrus juice found reduced indicators of oxidative damage and a potential positive association with DNA repair.14

Aronia Combats Metabolic Syndrome

In diabetic humans, ingestion of aronia juice over a three-month period resulted in lower fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, and total cholesterol.15 In metabolic syndrome patients, two months of supplementation with aronia anthocyanins resulted in a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well as red blood cell membrane cholesterol.16

Another study involving metabolic syndrome patients found decreased platelet aggregation and a reduction in the overall potential for clot formation after one month of supplementation with aronia extract.17 Additionally, in vitro research suggests that an extract of aroniacan protect against increased clot formation caused by elevated homocysteine levels.18

Among men with high cholesterol, aronia anthocyanins increased theactivities of the endogenous antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase and catalase while decreasing red blood cell levels of potentially toxic lead and aluminum.19

In research involving coronary artery rings derived from animals, aronia extract protected against the loss of endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation following exposure to reactive oxygen species.20 In human aortic endothelial cells, administration of aroniaextract prior to treatment with tumor necrosis factor-alpha protected against inflammation by inhibiting cell adhesion molecules, nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-KB) activation, and reactive oxygen species production.21

Aronia Offers Hope for Heart Disease

When tested in a double-blind trial of heart attack survivors treated with statin drugs for at least six months, aronia flavonoid extract given for six weeks was associated with a reduction in markers of inflammation and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, suggesting its use for secondary prevention of ischemic heart disease .22 

Recent experimental research which found that aronia juice retarded age-related changes in the aortic wall has led researchers to conclude that aronia "can be recommended as a prophylactic tool for healthy aging."23

Aronia Fights Infections

Like cranberry and blueberry juices, aronia juice has been found to have a preventive effect against urinary tract infection (UTI).24 The finding suggests potential usefulness of aronia juice in skilled nursing homes, where UTIs require frequent administration of antibiotic drugs. Other research suggests that aronia's ellagic acid and myricetin content may be protective against infection with influenza viruses .25

While much of the aronia research has been conducted in Europe, Americans are catching on. Aronia can be found in multi-berry and other supplements, and the juice can now be found on the shelves of natural food stores.


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  25. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2013 Oct 11;440(1):14-9.

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