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The first Israeli beer news portal in Israel. Founded in 2008. All about beer, accessible and professional.

Beer and Health

Beer aromatherapy


Recently, I was read a short article about diacetyl preventing Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. I was very happy – I am familiar with diacetyl – I have been sniffing it regularly for 30 years, but the joy was premature, the reporters, as usual, got it all wrong, but let’s go through it in order.

What is Diacetyl? – is an organic compound with the chemical formula (CH₃CO)₂. It is simply called: vicinal diketone (I’m not swearing, just words like that, incomprehensible…). Diacetyl is a by-product of fermentation and is sensed as the smell and taste of muffins and butter. In most types of “clean” flavor beers, the presence of diacetyl is unacceptable, even though some types of Czech lagers allow its presence in beer.

During fermentation, brewer’s yeast “breathes” the oxygen in the wort, “eats” the sugar and produces CO2 and alcohol. At the same time as alcohol, the yeast also produces diacetyl. After all the sugar is eaten, a diacetyl pause begins, which takes several days. During this pause, the yeast, for reasons of lack of “food”… begin to eat the diacetyl they have produced. The amount of diacetyl remaining after this pause is checked by special equipment, but the beer taster gives the final “go-ahead” for the bath of this beer – his nose cannot be replaced by any machine.

As I wrote above, on the last day of winter, the British edition of the Sun published a note that the aromas of beer, wine, and… ripe fruit, can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and even cure cancer! It turns out that diacetyl produced during fermentation has such properties. The statement is promising, but no link to the publication was published.

I contacted Prof. Anandasankar Ray at the University of California, Riverside, to whom the Sun refers, asking for the sources of this research. It turns out that the reporters, as is often the case, got it all wrong and it was about the equally dangerous, though not as well known, Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s disease causes degeneration of the part of the brain responsible for smoothness and coordination of movements, which gradually leads to the death of the patient.

American scientists have concluded that inhalation of diacetyl aroma can “delay neurodegeneration or memory impairment in diseases.” “We have shown for the first time that some of these odor’s molecules to which we are exposed are being absorbed into the cells of our skin, nose, lungs, even probably to the brain through the bloodstream are fundamentally altering gene expression.”

“Ours is the first report of common volatiles behaving in this way. It opens an entire field of inquiry. The possibilities are limitless.”- said Professor Anandasankar Ray of the University of California, Riverside.

So, scientists have once again confirmed the health benefits of the magical beverage – something that beer drinkers came to many hundreds of years ago.

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