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Scientists at Okayama University in Japan have rather agreeably discovered that unidentified compounds in lager and stout may help to prevent DNA damage leading to cancer.

Some cancers are apparently provoked by heterocyclic amines - "DNA-damaging chemicals found in cooked meat and fish", New Scientist reports. The university team fed mice these compounds, and then noted that "the DNA damage to their liver, lungs and kidneys was reduced by up to 85 per cent if the mice drank non-alcoholic beer instead of water".

Lead boffin Sakae Arimoto-Kobayashi reckons the beer-borne chemicals "prevent the amines binding to and damaging DNA". Naturally, if they can pinpoint the beneficial compounds in question, brewers will be able to concoct cancer-battling superbrews.

But before we all rush off to the pub for a lifesaving pint, some unanswered questions remain. New Scientist notes that heavy boozing is responsible for around six per cent of cancers in the West. Since the mice were refreshed with non-alcoholic beer, the scientists cannot confirm that "moderate consumption of normal beer has any anti-cancer benefits".

Arimoto-Kobayashi notes: "The total benefits and risks of beer with alcohol are still under consideration."

Fair enough. When you've worked it out, give us a shout - we'll be in the Rose and Crown doing a bit of field research. ®

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