When it comes to wine and health, once again, quantity makes all the difference. A new study out of Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that people who drink in moderation suffer from lower rates of cognitive decline leading to dementia than heavy drinkers. What's more, they suffered no greater risk than non-drinkers.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), analyzed data from the separate Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study, which tracked 3,021 Americans ages 72 or older from 2000 to 2008. The study tracked participants' alcohol consumption, among other factors, including social activity and BMI, allowing the researchers to control for numerous variables.
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Based on surveys and the number of participants who suffered from cognitive decline and dementia, the data was clear that heavy alcohol consumption over a lifetime is bad for cognitive ability. But, "daily low-quantity drinking was associated with lower dementia risk compared with infrequent higher-quantity drinking," Dr. Majken K. Jensen, senior author of the study, told Wine Spectator via email. In other words, if you're going to drink four glasses of wine a week, it's better to spread those glasses out over four nights rather than down them in one sitting.
The researchers found that participants who drank in moderation, specifically small, regular amounts, fared roughly the same as those who did not partake at all. A drink here and there did not adversely affect cognitive ability.
The researchers stressed that their study should not be read as advice to drink more, or start if you haven't. "Given the clear risks and costs of its overuse, and the uncertain balance of risks and benefits of moderate use, individuals who choose to drink should do so in moderation," said Dr. Manja Koch, lead author of the study, via email.