Another reason to love science (but worry about science stories)

Lisa: Cancer fighting beer! Well, not really, but researchers are engineering brewing yeast to produce the compound resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant touted as a anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, blood-sugar lowering, blood-pressure lowering wonder molecule.

All credit to this COSMOS article which reports the story (I think they do a fabulous job), they do point out that this is extremely early stage research (it’s in fact a part of an undergraduate genetic engineering project), and that they actually haven’t even got the yeast completely engineered to produce resveratrol yet, and that if it could be brewed there would be hurdles like making it taste ok and then that small thing of getting it approved by the FDA.

But such is the wonder of instant publishing both from news sources and in the blogosphere, if you now google ‘cancer beer’ or anti-cancer beer’ you’ll come across several articles where it sounds like this beer is already around, and that the idea is solid. Indeed, while many studies have shown that resveratrol has beneficial impacts on the health of animal models many of these findings are yet to be confirmed in humans.

So while I love the idea behind this report (cure your ails with a pint of beer, what’s not to love?!) the type of article leaves me a little worried. It’s another example of cancer is caused by/cured by ‘insert your food or drink of choice here’ story. Where the science behind it is anything but solid (even if the idea is great).


  1. Resveratrol is only part of the story.

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