Recently, researchers have discovered that drinking beer can lift your spirits as it contains an ingredient, which stimulates the brain's reward centre and makes a person feel good. The idea is not to get drunk every night, but instead to enjoy a nice refreshing beer now and then, without any excess!
The researchers from Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nürnberg in Bavaria, Germany found that Hordenine, which is found in malted barley and beer seems to do the job quite well. The team examined 13,000 food components to find out whether they stimulate the reward center in the brain and make people feel good. Hedonic hunger is the drive to eat for pleasure rather than to satisfy an actual biological need.
This feel-good effect is caused by the neurotransmitter dopamine -- tempting foods stimulate the reward centre in the brain where the dopamine D2 receptor is located. The team investigated whether there are special substances in foods that activate the dopamine D2 receptor in the same way as dopamine. The team worked with FAU's Computer Chemistry Centre using a virtual screening approach which is often used in pharmaceutical research.
The most promising results were obtained for hordenine, a substance present in malted barley and beer. "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," explained Dr Monika Pischetsrieder. Just like dopamine, hordenine stimulates the dopamine D2 receptor, however it uses a different signalling pathway.
In contrast with dopamine, hordenine activates the receptor solely through G proteins, potentially leading to a more prolonged effect on the reward centre of the brain.