Moderate Alcohol Drinking Improves Memory in Sexagenarians

Though alcohol consumption is usually coupled with negative effects on brain, a new study from a group of American researchers has found that moderate drinkers in the age group of 60 or above have better episodic memory (recalling specific events) than those who do not drink at all or who drink a lot more. Moderate alcohol consumption, up to two alcohol beverages a day, amongst the over 60s has shown to preserve the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for memory and cognition. However younger people considered as light or moderate drinkers do not benefit in the same way, the study said.

Researchers from the Universities of Texas, Kentucky and Maryland in the US, studied the habits of more than 660 people in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort. These patients completed surveys on their alcohol consumption and demographics, a battery of neuropsychological assessments, the presence or absence of the genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, APOE e4 and MRIs of their brains. The researchers found that light and moderate alcohol consumption in older people is associated with higher episodic memory and is linked with larger hippocampal brain volume. However, amount of alcohol consumption showed no effect on executive function of brain or overall mental ability. Findings from animal studies strengthen the view and demonstrate that moderate alcohol consumption may contribute to preserved hippocampal volume by promoting generation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus. Additionally, subjecting the brain to moderate amounts of alcohol may boost the discharge of brain chemicals involved with mental processing.

The possible explanation may be, that the adults who are able to continue consuming alcohol into old age are healthier, and, therefore, have higher cognition and larger regional brain volumes, than people who had to decrease their alcohol consumption due to critical health outcomes, the scientists explained. Even though the advantages of light to moderate alcohol ingestion with respect to cognitive learning and memory have been reported, long periods of abusing alcohol, typically considered having five or more alcoholic beverages during a single session, is demonstrated to be harmful for the brain, the study team pointed out.

The findings were detailed in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.


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Arunima Maiti

Arunima Maiti

Biomedical scientist with special interest in reproductive biology.

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