a glass of foamy beer, bit of beer

Moderate alcohol consumption appears to offer brain benefits to older Americans. (Young people do not seem to experience any advantages from drinking alcohol.)

A study included 660 people at least 60 years old who filled out questionnaires on alcohol consumption and underwent MRI brain scans. All were part of the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort. In this long-term study, most people reported drinking less as they grew older.

Investigators found that those who consumed between one and six drinks a week (under one a day) performed better on memory tests than those who did not drink at all. The scans also showed that moderate drinkers had larger hippocampus regions. This is the area of the brain believed to process memory. It is smaller in people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Danger of Too Much Booze

Too much alcohol, however, is problematic. Those who consumed three or more drinks daily were more likely to have cognitive impairment. Excess drinking is also linked to many other health problems, including accidents, liver disease, heart disease and stroke. Women who drink even moderately are at higher risk of breast cancer, as we have reported. Moderation seems to be the key.

[American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, online September 7, 2014]

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