September 26/Tokyo/Medical Daily-- Drinking beer can keep you strong in old age, according to Japanese scientists who found a substance in hops that can actually prevent muscle tissue from deteriorating.

Researchers from the University of Tokushima found that the prenylated flavonoid found in hops, flower clusters that provide the "bitter" taste and as acts as a stability agent in beer, called 8-prenylnarigenin (8-PN) inhibited muscle atrophy in tests on immobilized laboratory mice.

The latest findings revealed that when the mice were given feed containing the hops compound, they retained more muscle mass than those fed normal food with regular flavonoids and those fed no flavonoids.

Results of the study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, showed that while muscle levels in rodents given a diet containing the hops compound hardly fell, the mice who were not given any 8-PN saw a 10% drop in muscle amount over the study period.

Follow-up experiments found that mice given the plant compound also had 10 times the amount of the protective substance in their systems.

While beer is packed with calories, the alcoholic beverage does provide some other health benefits. Many beers contain a number of natural antioxidants and vitamins that can help ward off heart disease, and dark beers, which are considered healthier, contain more of the essential mineral iron and have more antioxidants than lighter varieties.

Other scientists found that beer also contains a "miracle molecule" called nicotinamide riboside that can prevent weight gain and diabetes as well as enhance muscle performance, according to a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism earlier this year. Researchers from the latest study hope to develop drugs to help prevent people from becoming handicapped and bed-ridden in old age.

Japanese researchers also hope to use the latest findings to create a new drink that would stop astronauts from wasting away on long space voyages.