According to a new study carried out by researchers at Erasmus University in the Arizona moderate consumption of alcohol provides some protection against dementia. We already know that moderate alcohol consumption - one to three drinks a day - reduces cardiovascular risk. Since blood vessel disease also affects the brain, might alcohol also protect against dementia.
According to this study, the report on alcohol is part of the long-running Rotterdam Study, which is following over 5,000 people aged 52 and older. Those who drank alcohol were matched to those who did not and, over the next six years, it was found that the moderate drinkers had a 70 per cent reduction in the risk of vascular dementia - which is caused by an impairment of blood flow to the brain. For all kinds of dementia, the risk was decreased by 40 per cent.
It may be that alcohol protects against dementia in much the same way as it reduces heart disease risk - by improving cholesterol levels and circulation. Alcohol may also have a directly beneficial effect on the brain - increasing levels of acetylcholine, a chemical involved in memory and learning. Too much alcohol, of course, has a very harmful effect on brain functioning.