21 January 2005


In relation to a recent post about the right way to drink alcohol, here comes another post extolling the benefits of drinking wine daily.

A study involving more than 12,000 women has shown that moderate wine drinking may have beneficial effects to the brain.

Daily Drink Helps Keep Brain Sharp, Data Suggest
By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 20, 2005; Page A01

Women who imbibe a little wine, beer or even spirits every day are less likely than teetotalers to see their memories and other thinking powers fade as they age, according to the largest study to assess alcohol's impact on the brain.

The study of more than 12,000 elderly women found that those who consumed light to moderate amounts of alcohol daily had about a 20 percent lower risk of experiencing problems with their mental abilities later in life.

"Low levels of alcohol appear to have cognitive benefits," said Francine Grodstein of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, senior author on the study, published in today's New England Journal of Medicine. "Women who consistently were drinking about ½ to 1 drink per day had both less cognitive impairment as well as less decline in their cognitive function compared to women who didn't drink at all," Grodstein said.

While the study involved only women, the findings probably hold true for MEN, although previous research indicates that men seem to benefit from drinking slightly more -- one to two drinks per day, researchers said.

[From the Washington Post]

The details of the full study can be read here.

In summary, these are the significant points of the study:

  • Middle-aged women, who had 1 alcoholic drink a day for at had a 20 percent reduced risk of cognitive impairment, compared to women who did not consume any alcoholic drink.

  • Light to moderate drinking here is defined as 1.0 to 14.9 grams of alcohol, or about ½ to 1 drink per day.

  • The mental and cognitive benefits were observed regardless of what type of alcohol beverage was consumed.

  • Moderate alcohol drinkers were also observed to be to have a less likely chance of significant decline in cognitive function over a 2-year period.

  • After considering confounding factors like age, education, how many friends and family members they had, how much exercise they got, and whether they had any other health problems, the results were found to have remained true.

With all these in mind, should we now recommend drinking alcohol to all so that they might enjoy their twilight years with bright minds?

Let me end this with a prudent advice from Drs. Evans and Bienias, who wrote an accompanying editorial along with the said study from this week's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine:
".....persons seeking to maximize cognition in old age must keep in mind both the uncertainty of the current results and the knowledge that alcohol consumption can be a double-edged sword, with the dangers of overindulgence being all too familiar."
Drink moderately.

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