Where it comes from: Get ready to be surprised. Hops extract is, wait for it, derived from the same hops plant (Humulus lupulus) used for brewing beer. The plant grows in Europe, Asia and North America, and the extract comes from dried parts collected from the female plant only. Another shocker: They are in the same family as marijuana plants.
What it'll do for you: Although we won't suggest beer drinking as a fat-loss method, hops extract is believed to have that effect. It's also used as a calming and sleep aid supplement and posses anti-inflammatory proprieties. Here, a closer look at the benefits of hops extract:
- May prevent weight gain
A 2005 Japanese study found that that hops extract prevented weight gain in mice when they were fed a high-fat diet. Two sets of mice were fed a standard or high-fat diet containing isomerized hop extract (IHE). Their body and tissue weights were measured at various points. The mice fed the high-fat diet with IHE showed a reduced body weight gain and improved glucose tolerance. The researchers concluded that IHE may also be helpful in humans when it comes to preventing diet-induced obesity.
Amy Shapiro, RD, CDN founder of AWS Nutrition, says she can't speak to hops extract's ability to prevent weight gain but she did have another point to add: "It is used as a diuretic and therefore, may decrease bloating and water retention, which corresponds with weight loss." Hops extract can also aid in digestion by increasing stomach secretions so that may decrease bloating. "However, it's important to note that hops can also be used an appetite stimulant," Shapiro warns. "So if decreasing your intake is a goal, this may not be for you."
- Aids in sleeping
Hops have traditionally been used as a sedative used to lessen anxiety and increase sleepiness. Most hops-related sleep studies with humans pair the extract with valerian and prove that, when taken together—usually 120 mg of hops extract with 500 mg of valerian extract—the combination may help to improve sleep and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. That said, there is no research that separates the effects of hops from the valerian and so it is unclear if hops are effective on their own as a sleep aid.
Weight-related bonus: "If we really want to reach, we can say studies show the more sleep you get a night (ideally seven to eight hours per night) the less weight you gain," explains Shapiro. So if used as a sleep aid, hops extract may have an additional positive side effect.
- May reduce joint swelling A study published in the International Society for Horticultural Science reports that various hops and modified hops extracts are among the most potent in inhibiting inflammation. More research is needed but many experts claim hops extracts are a good joint-support product and show efficacy against osteoarthritis pain.
Suggested intake: You could certainly drink more beer to fall asleep but if weight loss is your goal, that's not the best advice. Alternatively, Shapiro says you could, "make tea by steeping the hops in boiling water." In capsule form, one-half to one gram of dried extract has been taken three times daily by mouth. As a liquid extract, a dose of one-half to one milliliter has been taken up to three times by mouth.
When shopping for hops extract supplements, look for ones that list isohumulones, the active fat-burning component.
Associated risks/scrutiny: There have been no serious side effects reported. Do not take if suffering from depression—as they may increase symptoms—or if you're already taking sedatives.