Alcohol and Dementia Risk
Increasing amounts of research suggest that red wine may be protective for more than just heart disease. Now various research articles are suggesting that mild to moderate intake of alcohol may protect the brain against dementia. Exactly how alcohol does this, what type and why are not clearly established, but it does pique the curiosity of the potential benefits of alcohol in chronic disease.
Mild to moderate alcohol intake may play a role in the prevention of dementia. This is not a definitive conclusion as studies vary on what moderate alcohol intake means and to the degree of its effectiveness [Source: Letenneur]. Light to moderate intake of alcohol typically shows the greatest success, and both abstinence and heavy alcohol intake show higher risk than light to moderate [Source: Ruitenberg, Mukamal]. In some research, the benefit was seen with the equivalent of one drink a day for ladies and 1-2 for men [Source: Anstey]. Further research done in mice suggests that the consumption need not exceed one drink for ladies and two for men to see protection against the pathologic changes of dementia [Source: Wang]. This study was done using a red wine. Many theories of the benefits of alcohol suggest that perhaps of all the alcoholic beverages, the most benefit comes from wine. Of wine, red wine is thought to be the most beneficial. This may be due in part to a nutrient found in the grape skins known as resveratrol.
Resveratrol may play a significant role in alcohol’s benefits against chronic disease. It has already been suggested that resveratrol can offer substantial benefits against heart disease [Source: Penumathsa]. This benefit may extend to dementia as well. One study of alcohol’s effects on dementia suggested that beer actually increased risk while wine lowered risk [Source: Truelsen]. Perhaps the lack of nutrients, such as resveratrol, do not convey as much or any protection. Multiple areas of research are suggesting that resveratrol does have a role in the protection of the brain [Source: Vingtdeux, Kim]. Resveratrol has been shown to help protect the brain after traumatic injury [Source: Ates]. It has also been shown increase glutathione, the body’s potential tool for detoxification. In this manner, resveratrol helped to neutralize a toxic chemical called peroxynitrite, which is linked to inflammation and chronic illness like heart disease. Glutathione is a nutrient made by the body that is also used in the treatment of many neurologic illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease. Other studies in mice have shown that resveratrol actually reduced plaques associated with the pathology seen in the brain of those with dementia [Source: Karuppagounder]. The research is growing and continues to point toward a beneficial effect of resveratrol in the brain.
Alcohol may be able to convey some degree of protection toward the brain. It could still be debated whether or not beer or liquor provides the same benefit as wine. It is also important to know that the benefit may be reached in just one drink a day, especially for ladies. Overdoing the alcohol negated the benefits. The best bet so far seems to be in red wine for benefits of both heart disease and protection of the brain. For those not wishing to drink alcohol, consider dark grape juice without high-fructose corn syrup or supplementing with trans-resveratrol supplements with dosing around 100-300mg a day. Perhaps we need to remember to celebrate the bounty of the grape, so that we may continue to remember.
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