Well, now, this is certainly good news; it turns out that light drinking can help protect brain function as we age. Excerpt:
“We know there are some older people who believe that drinking a little wine everyday could maintain a good cognitive condition,” said lead author Ruiyuan Zhang, a doctoral student at UGA’s College of Public Health.
“We wanted to know if drinking a small amount of alcohol actually correlates with a good cognitive function, or is it just a kind of survivor bias.”
Regular, moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to promote heart health and some research points to a similar protective benefit for brain health. However, many of these studies were not designed to isolate the effects of alcohol on cognition or did not measure effects over time.
Zhang and his team developed a way to track cognition performance over 10 years using participant data from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study.
During the study, a total of 19,887 participants completed surveys every two years about their health and lifestyle, including questions on drinking habits. Light to moderate drinking is defined as fewer than eight drinks per week for women and 15 drinks or fewer per week among men.
Compared to nondrinkers, they found that those who had a drink or two a day tended to perform better on cognitive tests over time.
Even when other important factors known to impact cognition such as age, smoking or education level were controlled for, they saw a pattern of light drinking associated with high cognitive trajectories.
The wisest man I’ve ever known, my Dad, was fond of saying “all things in moderation.” He was fond of a little whiskey or rum in a Coke; when I was a young fellow I would routinely give Dad a pint bottle of Crown Royal for Christmas, which would usually last him the year. I don’t think I ever once saw him show any effect from the alcohol.
Now, in my youth, my friends and I would sometimes indulge in three-day events that devolved into a mobile earthquake of drunken excess, but we all grew out of that. Nowadays I’m more like Dad; I like a little snort once in a while, but, as he always said, in moderation.
Dad lived to 94 and his mind stayed sharp to the end. His Dad, who was teetotal all his life, lived to 91 and was likewise pretty sharp. Mixed results? I suspect that genetics are more to credit than alcohol or the lack of it. But here, in this story, I can smile at the idea that the occasional snort is, in fact, good for me.
Bartender! I’ll have another.