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July 13th, 2009
11:56 AM ET

Booze for the Brain

By Elizabeth Cohen
Senior Medical Correspondent

You’ve probably heard a glass of wine is good for the heart, and now a new study shows drinking may also help stave off dementia as well.

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina asked senior citizens how often they drank alcoholic beverages. After following the 3,069 study subjects for six years, the researchers found that those who had a drink or two a day were 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia compared to senior citizens who didn’t drink at all or drank more than an average of two drinks a day. It didn’t matter what type of alcohol the senior citizens drank.

“We were excited to see that even in older adults, moderate alcohol intake decreases the risk of dementia,” said Dr. Kaycee Sink, a geriatrician and senior author of the paper, which is being presented Monday in Vienna at an Alzheimer’s Association conference. “As of yet, we still have no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, so it is important to look for things that might help people prevent the disease.”

Drinking, however, was harmful for the senior citizens who started the study with mild cognitive impairment. For this group, consumption of alcohol in any amount was associated with faster rates of cognitive decline.

Dr. Laurel Coleman, a geriatrician in Maine and a member of the Board of Directors of the Alzheimer’s Association, who was not involved in the research, said the study is significant.

“A 40 percent lower risk of dementia is a meaningful change,” Coleman said. “This is really big.” She added more research needs to be done to determine why alcohol might stave off dementia.

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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Victor El Paso Texas

    I am dementia free, i think, hang on, wait, I am.....i guess. What the hells dementia?

    July 13, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  2. Larry

    I'm no senior citizen but I can tell you every time I drink it contributes to my cognitive impairment....HA!

    I agree with Dr. Coleman. This needs to be studied further.

    It's known that even moderate alcohol consumption can turn into higher consumption in some people.

    Careful with these studies. I used to work for a pharmaceutical company and we were starting on the development of a new anti-ulcer drug. Studies showed the drug cured 60% of the ulcered patients. The placebo cured the other 40%.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:39 pm |
  3. cautious

    I dont want to sound as if I am preaching, but scripture does quote that you can have wine for your stomach's sake. It assist the digestion process.

    It is the huge consumption of alcohol for no real reason other than to get incoherent. I'm not a drinker so cannot understand why people need to consume so much, and it's the same at parties or venues, there always seems to be so much alcohol that there is food.

    It's a first – i've never heard of alcohol treatment for dementia. Does not alcohol cause dementia?

    August 30, 2009 at 3:42 am |

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