A Substance in Beer Can Activate Brain’s Reward Center

Source: Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Summary: Researchers report a substance called hordenine, present in beer and malted barley can activate dopamine D2 receptors and stimulates the brain’s reward center.

Some foods make us feel good and it is the reason we cannot stop eating when had enough of them. This drive to eat for pleasure instead to satisfy our biological needs is called as hedonic hunger. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Germany tested almost 13000 food components to check out whether they can stimulate the brain’s reward center and make people feel good or not. Surprisingly they found a compound, Hordenine in beer and malted barley seems to the job quite well. The study was published in the open access journal Scientific Reports.

FAU-based researcher Thomas Sommer preparing a sample of beer. After processing, the level of hordenine in the sample is determined using high-performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Credit: FAU

Out of 13,000 options, 17 were selected and analyzed. In this process, food components were analyzed in a computer simulation rather than in a laboratory. The study was carried out by food chemistry, computational chemistry and medicinal chemistry divisions at FAU. Hordenine is similar to Dopamine which activates dopamine D2 receptors exclusively via G-proteins which leads to the prolonged stimulation of brain’s reward center. The final results indicate that hordenine may well contribute to the mood-boosting effect of beer.

Dr. Monika Pischetsrieder explains, ‘It came as a bit of surprise that a substance in beer activates the dopamine D2 receptor, especially as we were not specifically looking at stimulant foodstuffs.”

More Information: Thomas Sommer et al, “Identification of the Beer Component Hordenine as Food-Derived Dopamine D2 Receptor Agonist by Virtual Screening a 3D Compound Database”, Scientific Reports. DOI:10.1038/srep44201

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