New research suggests that wine and cheese are not only a perfect pairing but could also lower your risk of developing cognitive diseases like Alzheimer's. The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's disease leads to the deterioration of brain functions that affect memory and the ability to perform daily tasks. According to the Alzheimer's Association, over 5 million Americans are affected by the disease.
Diet has long been considered a marker for our health later in life, and studies have shown a link between diet, Alzhiemer's and other dementias. A recent study conducted at Iowa State University has found that consuming more wine and cheese over time could help bolster cognitive health as we age.
Analyzing data from the UK Biobank, a biomedical research database, the study followed more than 1,700 participants, ages 46 to 77, over the course of 10 years. Each participant completed an initial assessment that included questions about their diet and a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT), which measures the ability to quickly use reason and logic to solve problems. Two follow-up assessments were administered to the same participants between 2006 and 2012. The questionnaires asked participants how often they consumed fruit, vegetables, fish, processed meat, poultry, beef, lamb, pork, cheese, bread, cereal, tea and coffee, beer and cider, red wine, white wine, sparkling wine and liquor.
The data showed a correlation between red wine and cheese consumption and higher performance in FIT tests. "There was a strong, clear relationship between eating more cheese or drinking more red wine and having a higher fluid intelligence score over a six- to 10-year period," principal investigator Dr. Auriel Willette told Wine Spectator via email. This is great news for wine and cheese lovers, as a decline in FIT scores is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's.
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While moderate consumption of red wine and cheese was found to have the best correlation for participants who had no genetic risk of developing cognitive diseases, those who were genetically predisposed benefited from the daily consumption of any type of alcohol.
"Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimer's, while [others] seem to be at greater risk. That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether," said lead author Brandon Klinedinst in a statement. "Perhaps the silver bullet we're looking for is upgrading how we eat. Knowing what that entails contributes to a better understanding of Alzheimer's and putting this disease in a reverse trajectory."
The study did not examine which components in cheese and wine were beneficial, and Willette noted that further clinical trials would be needed to determine if explicitly changing diet could impact brain health, but he believes there is promise to their findings. "I was pleasantly surprised that our results suggest that responsible eating of cheese and drinking red wine daily are not just good for helping us cope with our current COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down."