Beer Ingredient Hops May Help Reduce Belly Fat

Obesity continues to be a growing epidemic affecting adults and children. According to the National Institutes of Health, there has been a rapid increase of individuals suffering from being overweight or obese for the last 20 years. Metabolic syndrome is also becoming more prevalent with those who are overweight or obese. A metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase a person’s possibility of heart disease and illness. 

Help for Obesity

Close up of man measuring waist with tape measure
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Obesity is a worldwide health issue stimulating chronic research to uncover methods of reducing body fat and related disease. Obesity and being overweight are indicated to be the primary reasons for metabolic syndrome. One 2005 research study (funded by Kirin, the beer company) suggested that isomerized hop extract (IHE), the bitter ingredient in beer may prevent diet-induced obesity. But the study was very small in scope and conducted on just a few rodents. Independent human studies need to be conducted to confirm the relationship. 

Hops and Fat Loss

Pint of Beer with Hop Plant
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Hops are the main ingredient in beer and immature part of the female plant (humulus lupulus L.). Iso-acids in the hops gives the beer a bitter flavor. The brewing and storage process creates a less bitter compound called matured hop bitter acids (MHBA). MHBA is indicated to help reduce body fat in both humans and rodents.

Some researchers believe that matured hop bitter acids (MHBA) can increase thermogenesis (heat production) in the body. Heat produced from thermogenesis might enhance fat burning and weight loss. MHBA has been suggested to increase lipid (fat) oxidation in the liver and inhibit fat absorption from the intestines. In other words, hops could burn off some of the fat otherwise collected in the liver and also prevents it from entering our blood vessels. But studies confirming this relationship are very limited.

Hops and Brown Fat

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Another limited study funded by Kirin beer company tested matured hop bitter acids (MHBA) on rodents. The purpose of the study was to show MHBA reduces diet-induced body fat stores in these particular rats and mice. Researchers focused on a specific fat called brown adipose tissue (BAT) during the trial.

Brown adipose tissue (BAT) primary function is to generate body heat. BAT has more capillaries and lipids compared to white fat cells. Because BAT is more vascular it requires more oxygen. Brown fat also has unmyelinated nerves providing stimulation to fat cells. One of the functions of BAT is causing us to shiver to increase our body temperature when we’re cold. Brown fat is also said to be a metabolically active organ able to reduce body fat.

Research and Rodents

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Matured hop bittering acids (MHBA) were tested on rodents given a high-fat diet to induce obesity. MBHA has shown to be a favorable ingredient in beer to help reduce body fat accumulated from poor eating habits.

Both rats and mice were studied under strict clinical testing protocols. The rodents were divided into two groups both receiving a high-fat diet (HFD). One group received a control of mature hop bittering acids (MHBA or MHB) in addition to their HFD. The MHB was gradually increased in the control group over a nine-week period. Body weight was measured two times per week during testing. Blood and tissue samples were taken at the conclusion of the trial.

Research results for the mice fed matured hop bittering acids (MHBA or MHB) along with a high-fat diet (HFD) showed weight gain significantly suppressed. Also indicated was a decrease in white adipose tissue (fat) and suppressed free fatty acids in the bloodstream. Other findings included increased levels of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) which is the template for protein synthesis (growth). These results indicate MHB stimulates an increase in mRNA specific to thermogenesis (burning) of brown fat.

Findings for rats consuming matured hop bittering acids (MHBA or MHB) with a high-fat diet showed significant elevation of brown adipose tissue (BAT) and sympathetic neural activity (SNA). It is indicated MHB stimulates nerve endings promoting thermogenesis (burning) of brown fat.

Overall results showed matured hop bittering acids (MHBA or MHB) as an effective aid to burn brown fat in rodents. MHB was also indicated to help diet-induced body fat accumulation.  Although more studies are required, it appears MHB could be a useful additive in foods and beverages to “reduce diet-induced body fat accumulation and related metabolic disorders.”

Human Studies

Older man holding glass for beer
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A study was published in the Nutrition Journal examining how matured hop extracts reduce body fat in healthy overweight humans. The research included two hundred total male and female participants. The individuals were between 20 and 64 years of age with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30 kg/m² and randomly assigned into two groups. Each person underwent abdominal CT scan to measure abdominal fat, blood and urine tests as part of the study protocol.

During a twelve-week testing period, subjects either drank a 350ml beverage containing mature hops extract (MHE) combined with mature hop bitter acids (MHBA) or placebo. The active and non-active beverages looked and tasted the same. Accurate records of food intake, exercise, and MHE ingestion were kept throughout the study. Any adverse health effects were also noted.

Primary findings for the group drinking mature hops extracts (MHE) beverage showed a significant decrease in belly fat at weeks eight and twelve compared to placebo participants. Secondary results for the group consuming MHE were greater weight loss and improved body mass index (BMI). Decreased body fat percentage ratio was also better for those drinking MHE. After four weeks, the group supplementing with MHE realized a lower waist and hip measurement compared to the placebo participants. Individuals experienced no adverse effects related to the test beverage during the research period.

Mature hops extracts (MHE) based on the findings, doesn’t contain enough isoacids to have an effect on obesity. Researchers concluded mature hops bitter acids (MHBA) in the test beverage as the compound promoting fat loss. The research indicated MHE combined with 35mg MHBA was effective in reducing body fat. Ongoing studies are needed but it appears MHE could be a “useful and safe tool to prevent obesity and related metabolic disorders.”

Does Drinking Beer Provide the Same Benefit?


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Although beer contains mature hops and iso-acid compounds, it doesn’t contain concentrations effective to reduce belly fat. Therefore, the answer to this question is, no. Overconsumption of this high-calorie adult beverage is linked to weight gain and other health problems. Also, the studies reviewed in this article examined isolated hops compound contained in beer. 

Is It Available in Supplement Form?

Close up high angle view of some dried hops in a container in a brewery.
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Mature hops acids (MHA) have been used medicinally for years. Research indicates MHA helpful as a sedative and used as an antibacterial. According to a study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, mature hop acids effectively inhibit acute local inflammation. MHA can be purchased as an unregulated supplement for medicinal purposes. Clinical studies are still ongoing for mature hops acids being used as a fat burner or suppressor. The research findings are positive and it appears the active compounds in hops will soon be considered “medical nutrition therapy” helping chronic diseases related to metabolic syndrome. 

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  1. Yajima H, Noguchi T, Ikeshima E, Shiraki M, Kanaya T, Tsuboyama-Kasaoka N, Ezaki O, Oikawa S, Kondo K. Prevention of diet-induced obesity by dietary isomerized hop extract containing isohumulones, in rodents. Int J Obes (Lond). 2005 Aug;29(8):991-7. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802965

  2. Morimoto-Kobayashi Y, Ohara K, Takahashi C, et al. Matured hop bittering components induce thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue via sympathetic nerve activity. Sun Q, ed. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(6):e0131042. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131042

  3. Morimoto-Kobayashi, Y., Ohara, K., Ashigai, H. et al. Matured hop extract reduces body fat in healthy overweight humans: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel group study. Nutr J 15, 25 (2015). doi:10.1186/s12937-016-0144-2

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