It’s a known fact that huge amounts of alcohol can cause some memory loss. From a simple black out after a productive night to permanent damage on the brain like Korsakoff syndrome. It’s all fuel (maybe a bad choice of words considering they are teetotalers) for the engine of anti-alcohol propaganda. But now a combined research by three American universities shows that the intake of alcohol can actually prevent dementia among older people. Their study shows that moderate drinking after 60 years old can keep the ability to recall memories intact. So not only do drinkers outlive the abstinent, they enjoy the final stages of their lives a lot more too.
Let’s get to the technical stuff. The study was performed by researchers of the universities of Texas, Kentucky and Maryland and published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias. They used data from more than 660 patients in the Framingham Heart Study Cohort, who completed surveys on their demographics and alcohol consumption, plus a number of neuropsychological assessments. For the physical part they received an MRI scan of their brain and were checked on the presence or absence of the genetic Alzheimer’s disease risk factor APOE e4. Now drumrolls please…
The researchers found that the moderate consumption of alcohol in older people (above 60) is associated with higher episodic memory. Simply said: the drinkers could remember a lot more about their own lives than the non-drinkers. Their hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with memory) was also bigger. It’s also good to mention that the alcohol consumption had no (negative) effect on other parts of the brain, since there was no impact on executive function and overall mental ability. These findings don’t come as a surprise since animal science already showed that moderate alcohol consumption contributes to preserve the volume of the hippocampus. These amounts of alcohol also boost the brain chemicals involved with the processing of information.
So maybe there is some truth to the Buffalo Theory as explained in the sitcom Cheers. The brain works better on alcohol, as long as you don’t go all Buffalo Bill at them. Let’s drink to that!