Q: Is red wine any more or less likely to cause a memory lapse than white wine? —Emily, Fort Worth, Texas
A: It sounds like there's a story behind this question!
Any form of alcohol will temporarily disrupt your hippocampus, which is the part of your brain responsible for memory and navigation. The color of the wine is irrelevant, but its alcohol content can play a big role. How much you consume, your blood sugar and hydration levels and if you're drinking on an empty stomach may all affect how much your cognitive functions are influenced by alcohol.
There have been multiple studies showing that moderate wine consumption can be good for your memory. An Australian study earlier this year found that a combination therapy including resveratrol (a phenolic compound found in wine and grape skins) may slow the symptoms of neurodegenerative illnesses. And in Spain, an analysis of nearly 100 published studies corroborated scientists' understanding of wine's protective effects on the brain. All that said, regular overconsumption of alcohol is bad for your memory and can even lead to dementia.
Specifically addressing the mechanisms of alcohol-induced memory loss, researchers from the University of California at San Diego and University of Texas at Austin found that the biggest culprit in memory loss may be your DNA. Their findings, published in Addictive Behaviors in 2011, indicated that alcohol's effects as they pertain to memory loss may be at least partially due to genetic predispositions, reporting that individuals with a history of blackouts were more likely to experience them than those who had not, even at comparable blood-alcohol concentrations. "Some individuals may have an inherent vulnerability to alcohol-induced memory impairments," the study concluded.