By Mike Pomranz
Updated September 29, 2014
© Bettmann/CORBIS

We’ve all heard the line “beer kills brain cells.” Science has disproved this idea a few times, though even if it doesn’t kill your cells, beer has never been thought of as a boon to your cognitive ability. But that might just be because we’ve been focusing on the wrong parts of beer. New research claims that a compound found in ales and lagers may actually be good for cognitive function.

According to a study published in Behavioral Brain Research, xanthohumol—a flavonoid found in beer—caused young mice to show “a significant improvement in cognitive flexibility.” Unfortunately, old mice did not see similar effects, maybe finally providing a biological explanation as to why college students can function after a dozen beers but middle-aged people are passed out after three.

But before you start drinking beer before school or work, CNN points out that to get the same amount of xanthohumol these mice received, you’d have to drink 2,000 liters of beer a day. And it’s hard to show improved brain function when you’ve died of alcohol poisoning.

Let’s not throw out the beer with the bathwater though. The takeaway is that more research needs to be done to see if xanthohumol can actually be harnessed for good in humans. And while they do that, you can simply enjoy getting your daily allowance of xanthohumol in very small doses.