A 2003 BBC news article reported that the old Guinness slogan “Guinness is good for you” might just contain an element of truth. A University of Wisconsin study indicates that a pint of the stout a day may work as well as an aspirin to help prevent the clots that can cause heart attacks. Guinness stopped touting the health benefits of its brew decades ago. Recently, however, a group of Rice University students participating in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition began a quest to engineer a cancer fighting health beer they have dubbed “BioBeer”.
Rice’s iGem team, the BiOWLogists, are using genetic engineering to develop a strain of brewing yeast that will ferment beer while also producing a pharmacologically significant amount of resveratrol. Resveratrol is a naturally occurring compound found in a few foods such as peanuts, blueberries and red wine. Studies have shown it to have cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits in mice and other animals. While resveratrol’s health effects have not been clinically proven for humans, its presence in red wine is often credited for the “French Paradox”, the apparent contradiction between the rich French diet and their relatively low rate of cardiac issues.
The Rice BiOWLogists still have a lot of research to do before they are ready to produce their first bottle of BioBeer, but they did take home a gold medal and second place for best presentation in the 2008 iGEM competition for the work they have done so far to build a beer-fermenting, resveratrol-producing strain of brewing yeast.
Congratulations, BiOWLogists! And, remember, always consume BioBeer, and its more conventional cousins in a responsible manner.
-the Brew Crew
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