If You’re in Your Golden Years, Drink Up to Remember
Science is definitely on the side of people over the age of 60 who like to have a drink. A new study has shown that, in older adults, moderate alcohol consumption can improve or preserve memory. This is an important finding for people with Alzheimer’s.
The study tracked the alcohol consumption of 664 people over more than three decades. At the start of the study the average age of participants was 42; by the end it was 75. Researchers assessed participants’ cognitive functioning and performed scans on their brains.
At the end of the study, researchers found that when compared to abstaining later in life, drinking alcohol at a light to moderate level could be tied to better episodic memory. This is the part of your memory that controls your ability to remember specific events.
According to scientists, alcohol has an ability to preserve the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that shrinks in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. MRIs of study participants showed that the moderate drinkers had more hippocampal volume than abstainers.
The study also found that it doesn’t matter if the alcohol is beer, wine or liquor—it just matters that it isn’t too much. “All of these improvements actually reverse when people drink more than three drinks per day,” said study author Faika Zanjani, an associate professor of behavioral and community health at the University of Maryland. She added that over-imbibing could actually accelerate mental decline over time.
Of course, the study results only apply to adults over the age of 60. Alcohol consumed in midlife doesn’t affect memory or brain volume later in life.