Sure, a glass of your favorite red might help clear your mind after a stressful day, but it turns out that the benefits of wine on your noggin are more long-term than we'd previously thought. In fact, moderate wine drinkers might actually have a lower risk for dementia than those who completely abstain from vino altogether, according to a new study.
A June 2018 paper published in the British Medical Journal found that teetotalers had a higher risk of dementia (67 percent) when compared to those who drank the recommended wine limit of a bottle and a half per week. The research, which was carried out by teams from University College London and the Inserm health institute in France, analyzed the results of a British study that followed the health of more than 9,000 participants over 23 years. There were 397 cases of dementia recorded within that sample.
“The most intriguing finding from this study was the significantly increased risk of dementia among abstainers… and that association was only present in those who abstained from wine,” Dr. Sevil Yasar from John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore told The Independent. "Wine, in addition to alcohol, contains polyphenolic compounds, which have been associated with neuroprotective effects on both neurodegenerative and vascular pathways, and with cardioprotective effects through inflammation reduction, inhibition of platelet aggregation, and alteration of lipid profile.”
But don't go uncorking that afternoon pinot in celebration just yet: Participants who drank above the recommended limit were also at an increased risk of dementia, with the chances of developing the disorder spiking the more alcohol they consumed.
“We show that both long-term alcohol abstinence and excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of dementia,” the authors of the study wrote. “Given the number of people living with dementia is expected to triple by 2050 and the absence of a cure, prevention is key.”
This isn't the first study to look at the association between dementia and heavy drinking. A February 2018 paper in the Lancet Public Health journal analyzing 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia found that the majority of them were related to chronic heavy drinking. As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), "chronic drinking" in this context refers to men drinking more than 60 grams of pure alcohol (about four to five drinks) on average per day, and women drinking 40 grams (about three drinks) per day.
"The findings indicate that heavy drinking and alcohol use disorders are the most important risk factors for dementia, and especially important for those types of dementia which start before age 65, and which lead to premature deaths," said study co-author Jürgen Rehm, PhD, in a release. "Alcohol-induced brain damage and dementia are preventable, and known-effective preventive and policy measures can make a dent into premature dementia deaths."
As with all things, moderation is the key when it comes to enjoying our favorite pastimes in a healthy way. We'll gladly raise a glass to that!