A Few Drinks Can Reduce Risk of Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer's
Following a review of 44 studies, researchers at Loyola University Chicago Strick School of Medicine, headed by Michael Collins, Ph.D., have found that a moderate amount of alcohol is good for you and can reduce your risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease.
There has been a lot of recent research looking at the risks and benefits of alcohol consumption in adults in recent years, so it is interesting when scientists look to find an overview of their results. Although a few studies did report an increased risk of dementia most of them published since the 1990s showed that moderate drinkers lowered their chances of getting it.
Why alcohol should have this effect is not entirely understood. Long term alcohol abuse is known to cause memory loss and impair cognitive function. In fact there is a type of organic dementia linked to alcohol abuse called Wernicke Korsakoff's syndrome.
We know light-to-moderate consumption lessens the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Professor Edward Neafsey, one of the study authors, has a theory that small amounts of alcohol might toughen up brain cells so that they cope better when major stresses on them can cause dementia.
The compound resveratrol, found in red wine, has been widely promoted as an effective anti-oxidant and good for the heart and brain. Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes and several studies have linked moderate consumption of red wine with a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease. However, the exact process is not understood.
With alcohol consumption increasing in many Western countries some people may have lost sight of what moderate drinking is. For women, a moderate intake is considered to be one drink, (1 unit) per day. Men can have a slightly higher intake but it is still only one to two units of alcohol.
What is a Unit of Alcohol?
Units of alcohol are often less than you think. One unit of alcohol is the equivalent to;
a regular strength glass or small bottle of beer/lager or
a glass of wine or
a small measure of spirit
A single can of strong beer is around four units of alcohol.
The article will be published in the February 2009 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research