The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can Alcohol Delay Alzheimer’s Disease?

Older people who drink moderately have better memories and less risk of Alzheimer's disease than teetotalers.

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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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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