Does Drinking Champagne Prevent Dementia?

By May Wilkerson 11/23/15

Recent reports appeared to say yes, but the devil's in the details.

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Here’s some news that would be worthy of a toast: three glasses of champagne a day could prevent dementia, according to various news reports. But unfortunately for lovers of bubbly, the reports are a bit of a stretch.

It turns out, the reports were based on a study from the University of Reading that took place three years ago and the findings resurfaced via social media. At the time, researchers found that drinking champagne improved spatial memory—the ability to navigate directions, like your way to the grocery store or home from the bar. The bubbly beverage contains phenolic acids, which are believed to reduce inflammation and might also protect brain cells.

But before you stock up on bottles of bubbly at Costco, keep in mind that there is no evidence that these effects pertain to humans, since the original study was conducted on rats. Researchers found that rats who had consumed champagne were significantly more capable of navigating a maze to locate a treat at the end.

After examining the critters’ brains under a microscope, the researchers found that the brains of champagne-drinking rats had increased proteins that stimulate the formation of nerve-cell networks and enhance memory and learning. In particular, these rats showed more of a protein called dystrophin, which may protect against loss of spatial memory and rational decision-making.

But we can’t be sure if champagne has the same effect on a human brain. And even if it did, the small amount of champagne given to the rats would be equivalent to only about one and a half flutes a week of champagne for humans.

Experts say if you want to ward off dementia, a safer bet is to eat fruit and vegetables, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, maintain a normal blood pressure, and avoid regularly getting punched in the head. This regime may not have the same appeal as three glasses of champagne a day, but at least it won’t result in hangovers, not to mention hiccups.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.