Emerging research suggests that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption may decrease the risk of cognitive decline or dementia. Having that occasional drink may actually help protect your memory.

Long-term alcohol abuse is known to negatively affect memory function and can cause brain cell death.

However, according to a study published in Age and Ageing by Oxford University Press, modest alcohol consumption may maintain or even protect brain function.

Estimates from various studies have suggested the prevalence of alcohol-related dementia to be about 10 percent of all cases of dementia.

Now researchers have found after analyzing 23 longitudinal studies of subjects aged 65 years and older that the impact of small amounts of alcohol was associated with lower incidence rates of overall dementia and Alzheimer’s dementia, but not of vascular dementia and cognitive decline.

It is still an open question whether different alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and spirits, all have a similar effect.

Some studies have shown a positive effect of wine only, which may be due either to the level of ethanol, the complex mixture that comprises wine, or to the healthier life-style some ascribe to wine drinkers.

A total of 3,327 patients were interviewed in their homes by trained investigators (physicians, psychologists, gerontologists) and reassessed 1 1/2 years and three years later.

Information on the cognitive status of those who had died in the interim was collected from family members, caregivers or primary care physicians.

Analyses revealed that alcohol consumption was significantly associated with a lower incidence of overall dementia and Alzheimer’s dementia.

Researchers also found that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was associated with relatively good physical and mental health.

Source: Oxford University Press