Jun Wang and other researchers at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine studied female mice with genes that order the production of amyloid-beta protein, which has been linked to brain plaque in Alzheimer's patients, reported the online edition of science magazine WebMD.
The researchers split the mice into three groups. One group of mice got its drinking water spiked with red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon from California-grown grapes). Another group had its drinking water mixed with ethanol that didn't come from red wine.
The mice in the third group were teetotallers, drinking water with no alcohol.
The mice were free to drink as much as they wanted for seven months. None went on major benders. The mice's average wine consumption equalled moderate consumption in humans, the researchers noted.
They defined moderate consumption as one five-ounce glass of wine a day for women and two for men.
After seven months of sipping their designated drinks, the mice individually were placed in a maze and challenged to find their way out. Those in the red wine group performed best.
The researchers found that the mice in the red wine group had the lowest levels of amyloid-beta proteins.
Wang's team, however, noted that alcohol had risks as well as benefits, and are not recommending that anyone start drinking wine to prevent Alzheimer's.
The study only included mice. It's too soon to know if the findings apply to people, they said.