Ask Wine Spectator…
Q: Alzheimer’s tends to run in my family. I’m a moderate wine drinker and would like to know if that has any positive effects for a person with the potential to develop the disease? —Susan, New York
A: Alzheimer’s, a degenerative brain disease characterized by loss of memory and other cognitive functions, is still not fully understood by scientists and, as of yet, has no cure. Much of the research on this condition is focused on preventing its development in high-risk people, including those with a family history of the disease. Medical researchers now believe that much of the damage to the brain is happening “silently” years before memory loss and behavioral changes appear. So you’re sensible to evaluate your lifestyle before you experience any visible symptoms.
Overall, light to moderate drinking, accompanied by a healthy diet, seems to yield some benefits for brain function as we age, without significantly hindering our memory and motor skills.
The past few years have brought encouraging news specifically concerning wine and Alzheimer’s. In one 2015 study, researchers from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center showed that following a specific plant-heavy diet that includes moderate consumption of wine could slow cognitive decline in older adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
A Georgetown University study, published in the journal Neurology this fall, revealed a link between consumption of a polyphenol found in wine and a protein biomarker for the disease. People suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s who took large doses of resveratrol maintained higher levels of amyloid-beta 40, which normally declines as the disease progresses. Other wine polyphenols hold out hope, based on studies in rats, for clearing out the plaques that clog the pathways in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains.
Though all this speaks in support of your moderate drinking, please consult with your physician to determine the best course of action for you and see if you could benefit from other dietary changes. —Douglas Dejesus