A study of 3,000 women ages 70 to 82 years suggests that a moderate amount of alcohol consumption resulted in better mental acuity and contributed to a slower decline in cognitive function.
The study investigated 5,804 older participants in a clinical trial evaluating cholesterol-lowering drugs. 42% of women and 71% of men reported mostly moderate drinking, with only 8% of women consuming more than the equivalent of one drink daily; over 17% of men averaged more than two drinks a day, the upper limit recommended for men. Women who drank scored higher than non-drinkers on every test of cognitive function, such as speed of information processing and verbal memory. Women who drank low or moderate amounts of alcohol also showed less decline in cognitive function than nondrinkers after about 3-years of follow-up.
The research suggested that women who had one to seven drinks a week had better cognitive function than women who didn’t drink at all. The results support previous research which concluded that older brains benefit from moderate drinking. “The size of the effect seems to be equivalent to that of several years of aging,” said David Stott from the University of Glasgow, main author of the study. Alcohol consumption by men didn’t appear to have any effect on cognitive decline. The gender disparity could have several possible explanations, such as the protective effect of estrogen in women, Stott said.
Source: December 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.