Study of Studies: Moderate Drinking Beats Dementia

By Jason Gotlieb 08/19/11

Exhaustive new research concludes that for unknown reasons, a little alcohol lowers the risk of dementia—but please don't go crazy, say scientists.

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The eternal debate on whether moderate drinking can really do you good has been given fresh impetus—by an exhaustive new study on dementia. Moderate consumption makes a person 23% less likely to develop cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia than a non-drinker, concluded researchers at Loyola University Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine. "Moderation," for their purposes, was defined as up to two drinks for a man and one for a woman per day—and we're not talking quadruple whiskeys here. The research—authored by professors Edward J. Neafsey and Michael A. Collins—analyzed 143 previous studies, dating back to 1977 and involving over 365,000 participants. When commenting, Neafsey chose his words extremely carefully: "We don't recommend that non-drinkers start drinking, but moderate drinking—if it is truly moderate—can be beneficial." Wine was found to be "more beneficial" than beer or hard liquor. Scientists aren't exactly sure why alcohol improves people's outlook in this specific area, but Neafsey and Collins speculate that brain cells are being "toughened up" by small quantities of alcohol, preparing them to cope with later brain stresses. Of course, there are plenty of non-alcoholic ways to reduce the risk of dementia, such as exercise, education, cereals, vegetables and even gardening. But what do any of those things give us to argue about?  

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Jason Gotlieb is a programmer, software developer, and writer living in New York. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.