Heavy drinkers are notorious for forgetting what happened the night before. But new research involving elderly patients suggests that drinking in moderation can actually be good for memory. Here, a brief guide to the findings:
So drinking improves your memory?
Yes — or rather, it can help prevent conditions that make your memory fade in old age. The study found that elderly men and women who drank moderately were 30 percent less likely to suffer from dementia — and 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease — than those who abstained completely.
How did the study work?
Researchers tracked the health of 3,202 Germans who were at least 75 years old and free of dementia. After three years, follow-up exams revealed that 217 of the patients had developed dementia. Those who said they drank regularly — but in moderation — were far more likely to stay mentally sharp.
Did it matter what they drank?
No. The results were the same regardless of whether the patient drank beer, wine, or cocktails, says researcher Siegfried Weyerer of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany. "While, I believe, one should not start to drink just because one has attained seniority," he says, "neither must one stop!"
Are these results a surprise?
Not totally. Though the exact mechanism behind this correlation is not well understood yet, over the past three decades, it has been investigated in 71 studies involving 153,856 men and women. Most of the studies, regardless of the drinking habits in the country studied, linked light alcohol consumption to better cognitive function and reduced risk of dementia. "The badge of age is not a warning label of fragility," says Dr. Harvey Finkel of Boston University Medical Center, as quoted in Britain's Telegraph.