Does Wine Prevent Dementia?
A new analysis of medical research finds that a nightly glass of wine with your dinner could be helping protect your brain from the risk of developing dementia. But scientists have yet to agree on why.
Hoping to bring focus to the debate, researchers from Qingdao Municipal Hospital and Ocean University, both in China, conducted a meta-analysis of recent research on the topic. They looked at 11 all-cause dementia (ACD) studies with 73,330 participants, five Alzheimer’s dementia studies with 52,715 participants and four vascular dementia studies with 49,535 participants. They used a random-effect model to analyze the data.
The main conclusion of the study supports the idea that light to moderate alcohol consumption—one drink per day or less, according to this analysis—confers a lower risk of all-cause dementia than total abstinence. On the other hand, the researchers found that the risk for dementia was higher for those who consume more than three to four drinks per day, or 23 drinks per week.
A closer look at the results shows more good news for wine lovers: Of the studies analyzed, seven addressed the type of alcohol consumed, and the analysis concluded that wine (consumed in light to moderate amounts) was the only alcoholic beverage that appeared to possess notable protective effects against dementia.
Why does wine protect the mind? One familiar theory: the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of polyphenols in wine could be a contributing factor.
But there may be other mechanisms. Ethanol is believed to stimulate the release of acetylcholine in the brain, which leads to improved cognitive function. Another theory is that gallic acid, which the body produces when consuming red wine, can block the aggregation of beta amyloid in the brain. Beta amyloid is a class of peptides involved in the development of dementia.
So what does this mean for wine drinkers? "It's pretty clear that people who drink wine [are] lowering the risk of developing dementia; what we were trying to do is see why this is true," explained Dr. Curtis Ellison, professor at Boston University School of Medicine. "It’s the polyphenols in wine that seem to give it extra protection, and it's probably that polyphenols work best with alcohol. [But wine] also evidently has mechanisms that are still poorly understood."
For now, just follow the advice we always give: drink wine in moderation to get the maximum health benefit.
(This article is a lightly edited version of one appearing on the Wine Spectator website.)
Posted on Wed, May 17, 2017
by Tiffany Olson filed under