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Moderate Drinking May Help Prevent Alzheimer's, Other Dementia
Date:8/16/2011

chair in Alzheimer's Disease Research and professor of neurology at the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "There are at least a dozen reports such as this, touting the beneficial neurological effects of alcohol. Each report brings calls and visits from patients, interested in what advice they can take away and apply to their own lives."

Gandy said that proof that moderate drinking helps curb dementia rates could only come from a prospective, randomized clinical trial -- something that hasn't happened yet. "Until there are some randomized clinical trial data, no patient guidance is warranted," he said.

Another expert agreed. Dr. James Galvin, director of the Pearl Barlow Center for Memory Evaluation and Treatment at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said that there is growing evidence of a beneficial effect of moderate drinking on dementia, but "we should not rush out to buy bottles of Merlot, Cabernet or Pinot just yet."

And he added that the brain-healthy effects of moderate drinking noted in studies might just be a marker for an overall healthy lifestyle. "The Mediterranean diet with whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil and moderate red wine also reduces the risk of dementia, as does exercise, social engagement, mental activities and an optimistic outlook on life," Galvin said. "It is clear that heart healthy behaviors are also brain healthy behaviors."

For their part, the researchers said that it's not clear why moderate drinking may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment, but one premise suggests that alcohol might improve blood flow in the brain and thus brain metabolism, the researchers said. And they offered up another theory, that small amounts of alcohol may make brain cells more fit by slightly stressing them and increasing their ability to cope with major levels of stress that can eventually cause dementia.

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