A recent book on Alcohol and Aging offers this very important chapter abstract:
Epidemiological studies have observed that older adults who consume light to moderate amounts of alcohol have higher cognitive functioning and are less likely to develop different types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, compared to older adults who do not consume alcohol. Similar findings have been reported by studies that have examined midlife alcohol consumption and cognitive functioning during old age. The apparent benefits of consuming light to moderate amounts of alcohol have been attributed to increased cell proliferation in specific regions of the brain, antioxidative properties of alcohol, and reduced risk for health conditions associated with accelerated cognitive decline and dementia. However, there is a debate regarding whether alcohol plays a causal role in preserving cognitive functioning during old age and older adults who abstain from alcohol should not be advised to start consuming alcohol. The objective of this chapter is to provide a comprehensive summary of the evidence from animal and human studies that have examined the effect that alcohol consumption has on the brain and cognitive functioning. This chapter also reviews the evidence for a causal relationship between alcohol and cognition as well as alternative explanations for the observed findings from epidemiological studies. Finally, we conclude by providing future research directions that can be pursued to clarify the relationship between alcohol consumption and cognitive functioning during old age.
Looks like Cliff Clavin is vindicated once again, as he famously hypothesized on Cheers:
“Well ya see, Norm, it’s like this… A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That’s why you always feel smarter after a few beers.”
This is exactly how it works for me! As I always like to say, balanced nutrition requires intake of all four major booze groups (red wine, white wine, distilled spirits, and beer). Take no chances.