For over thirty years research has been done and much debate has carried on about the benefits or risks associated with drinking alcohol and wine in particular. After an analysis of research since 1977, it has been determined that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, especially wine, may lower the risk of dementia which often leads to severe Alzheimer's Disease. Too much increases the risk so balance is necessary.

As a matter of fact, the association between moderate drinking and reduced risk of dementia and cognitive impairment was statistically significant in 14 of 19 countries, including the United States.

Resveratrol, found in wine at fairly high levels, is a naturally occurring antioxidant too that decreases the stickiness of blood platelets and helps blood vessels remain open and flexible. It is also known that it inhibits the enzymes that can stimulate cancer cell growth and suppress immune response.

Wine is the primary dietary source of resveratrol, and red wine contains much greater amounts of resveratrol than does white wine, since resveratrol is concentrated in the grape skin and the manufacturing process of red wine includes prolonged contact with grape skins.

Edward J. Neafsey, a professor in the department of molecular pharmacology and therapeutics at Loyola University Medical Center said:

"We don't recommend that nondrinkers start drinking. But moderate drinking, if it is truly moderate, can be beneficial."

Moderate drinkers were 23% less likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of cognitive impairment, but don't get it twisted or see this fact as a reprieve to drink heavily. More than three to five drinks per day was associated with a higher risk of dementia and cognitive impairment.

Dr. Sam Gandy, chair in Alzheimer's disease Research and professor of neurology at the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City continues:

"This study was well-designed and well-executed but falls in the category of epidemiology [population wide, observational studies]. There are at least a dozen reports such as this, touting the beneficial neurological effects of alcohol. Each report brings calls and visits from patients, interested in what advice they can take away and apply to their own lives. Until there are some randomized clinical trial data, no patient guidance is warranted."

It is true however that it isn't clear why moderate drinking may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment, but one school of thought suggests that alcohol might improve blood flow in the brain and thus brain metabolism which keeps the brain sharp. Learning multiple languages has the same effect.

Dr. James Galvin, director of the Pearl Barlow Center for Memory Evaluation and Treatment at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City points out many things one can do to stave off the onset of dementia:

"The Mediterranean diet with whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil and moderate red wine also reduces the risk of dementia, as does exercise, social engagement, mental activities and an optimistic outlook on life. It is clear that heart healthy behaviors are also brain healthy behaviors."

Written by Sy Kraft