Wine and Dementia

The latest issue of TIME highlights a new study by geriatrics researchers at the University of Bari in Italy that seems to link moderate alcohol consumption with lower rates of dementia in older individuals. First, the good news:

A survey of elderly Italians — 1,445 of whom had no cognitive impairment and 121 who suffered mild cognitive impairment (MCI) — found that, over 3.5 years, those with MCI who drank less than one drink a day progressed to dementia at a rate 85% slower than those who drank nothing.

The article is quick to point out, however, that the scientists who did the study aren’t ready to declare a cause-and-effect linkage. Other factors, such as the idea that healthy, active people might be more inclined to have a glass of wine vs. their less able, more heavily medicated peers, could be at work. Nevertheless, they don’t dismiss the possible benefits of that glass of wine:

Alcohol could offer some protection against cognitive decline, after all. Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked with reduced risk of vascular disease, and good vascular health could slow the progression of dementia. The study authors note that some experiments show that ethanol encourages the release of a brain chemical that could be responsible for improved memory; that alcohol is associated with high levels of HDL cholesterol, linked to better coronary health; and that anti-oxidants in wine, the main source of the elderly Italians’ alcohol intake, might also boost cognitive performance.

If nothing else, studies like this show that having a glass of wine each day doesn’t hurt, and may help in several key aspects of staying healthy. In addition, enjoying a glass of wine has its own merits. Cheers!

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