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Health Watch: Moderate Wine Consumption May Help Alzheimer’s Disease Patients

Researchers find mortality rate lower for those who drink 2 to 3 glasses a day; also, a mixed health message for women
Photo by: Yuri/Thinkstock
A Danish study found that Alzheimer's patients may benefit from moderate wine consumption.

Douglas De Jesus
Posted: June 1, 2016

Recent studies have shown that moderate wine consumption can reduce the risks of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now new research from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Public Health suggests moderate alcohol consumption can help patients already suffering from mild forms of Alzheimer’s, reducing their mortality rate significantly.

For their study, published in the journal Neurology, the researchers analyzed data from a survey of Alzheimer’s patients, the Danish Alzheimer’s Intervention Study (DAISY). Those patients and their caregivers filled out surveys on various health habits, including alcohol intake. The study also monitored mortality data over a period of 36 months.

Patients were divided into four categories: those who abstained from alcohol, those who drank 1 drink or less per day, those who drank 2 to 3 drinks per day and those who drank more. (The study defines a drink as 0.5 ounces of alcohol, equal to about 5 ounces of wine.) Participants who consumed 2 to 3 drinks per day showed a significantly lower mortality rate over the 36 months than those in every other category.

The researchers do acknowledge the study’s data is limited because it only included 321 participants and does not show how alcohol would affect patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s over a longer period of time. But the findings show enough promise to warrant more research.

Mixed news for women wine drinkers

For several years now, medical researchers have delivered a mixed message to women when it comes to alcohol. Studies have repeatedly shown moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But moderate consumption has also been linked with increased breast cancer risks.

Those findings have been based on observational studies that record women’s alcohol consumption at the beginning of the research and then track illness rates. But those studies can be limited by fluctuating drinking habits that aren’t considered. A new study by a team at the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen tried to eliminate this problem by comparing postmenopausal women who increased their alcohol consumption over a five-year period and similar women who either reduced or maintained their typical consumption.

The researchers analyzed data from the Diet, Cancer and Health Study, a large Danish survey of more than 50,000 men and women that tracked a variety of factors, including diet and drinking habits from 1993 to 2003.

More than 21,000 of the Danish survey's participants were postmenopausal women, and the Southern Denmark study singled out those who increased their alcohol intake to 2 drinks per day over a five-year period. These women exhibited a 30 percent higher risk of breast cancer but a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared with those who did not change their alcohol consumption.

The women who instead lowered their alcohol intake over the five-year period had neutral results: they did not appear to alter the risk of developing either breast cancer or coronary heart disease significantly. The researchers caution that their study is only a preliminary take.

Robert A Margadonna
New Jersey —  June 1, 2016 3:24pm ET
I think that as important as these studies are due to the fact that people will continue to drink wine, other aspects must be observed. (Also, wine consumption is getting more popular as time goes by.) The researchers must look at the history of wine and wine drinkers. Mostly, men have drank wine over the centuries. Men also have a different body chemistry than woman which makes the wine properties react differently in the body. The studies with mice or other creatures other than humans doesn't state what gender they are. These factors along with diet and genetic health history need to be considered. There isn't one magic pill that will work for everybody. Although, I do think that wine does have a place in a healthy lifestyle and can be beneficial.
Scott Stevens
Wisconsin  —  June 1, 2016 10:34pm ET
Naturally a wine publication would lead with such a headline. It could otherwise be summed up with two words: Wishful. Thinking.

Ignoring for a moment that daily drinking is one sign of the disease of alcoholism, alcohol use increases risks of eight different cancers, more than 60 other diseases, and is the third leading cause of preventable death and illness in the world. A recent study put ZERO alcohol as the recommended dose to preserve brain health. A 2014 study linked daily drinking to early onset dementia in men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has definitively demonstrated that alcohol use shrinks white matter, and reduces the formation of new brain cells by 40 percent.

I don't begrudge any aficionado his or her vino, however please save the medical miracle talk of wine's life-giving properties for publications less credible than yours. There are no health benefits backed up by evidence based studies. What causes problems is one.

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