Have a beer before you forget

Study finds alcohol may help prevent Alzheimer's

Jan 25, 2002 - A study by Dutch scientists has found that daily moderate consumption of alcohol may ward off Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.


The study published in The Lancet medical journal reported that it doesn't seem to matter what people drink -- the effect is the same. The finding adds to a growing body of evidence for the health benefits of moderate drinking.

As always, experts emphasized that moderation -- between one and three drinks a day -- is the key. Besides destroying the liver, several studies have shown that excessive drinking can be toxic to the brain. Alcoholics can end up with a shrunken brain, which is linked to dementia. There is even a medical condition called alcoholic dementia.

"For people who drink moderately, this is another indication that they are not doing any harm. And for those who don't, if they don't simply out of health concerns, they might want to rethink that position," said Meir Stampfer, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study.

Researchers suggested the blood-thinning and cholesterol-lowering properties of ethanol in alcohol may ward off dementia, which is often caused by a blood vessel problem. Another possibility, the study speculated, is that low levels of alcohol could stimulate the release acetylcholine, a brain chemical believed to facilitate learning and memory.

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