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Moderate Alcohol Consumption in Later Years May Aid Memory

While drinking too much alcohol at once has been known to cause memory loss, a recent study suggests that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol when you’re over 60 may be associated with a better ability to recall memories of events.

Participants in the study included 660 patients in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort. All of the participants completed surveys to determine their level of alcohol consumption and demographics. In addition, the researchers conducted neuropsychological assessments and MRIs to determine whether or not they were genetically at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

After examining all of the information, the researchers discovered an association between moderate alcohol consumption, higher episodic memory, and larger hippocampal brain volume. They did not find any association between moderate alcohol consumption and executive function or overall mental ability.

The link between light alcohol consumption and episodic memory was not seen when hippocampal volume was factored in. This suggests that hippocampal functioning may be the critical factor in these improvements.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, University of Kentucky, and University of Maryland conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on September 7, 2014, in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias.

Previous studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease and extending life expectancy. These benefits are particularly apparent with wine consumption because wine is high in a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory called resveratrol.

It is important not to get carried away, however, because the negative effects of heavy drinking quickly overcome the potential benefits associated with 1-2 drinks a night.

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