Moderate consumption of alcohol has already been shown to cut the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Recent evidence has also found that moderate intake of alcohol reduces insulin resistance and may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A Dutch study published in the January 2002 Lancet suggests yet another benefit.
This study of 5395 people age 55 or older who were followed for 5 years found that those who consumed 1-3 drinks a day were 42% less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or other dementia than those who drank no alcohol. Those who did not drink daily but consumed more than one drink a week had a 25% reduction in risk, and even those who drank only occasionally were still 18% less likely to develop the disease than those who never consumed alcohol.
There were not enough heavy drinkers in this study to draw any conclusions about its impact on Alzheimer's disease, but many studies have found many serious adverse effects on health from heavy alcohol intake. These include cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, an increased risk of several types of cancer, and a big drop in life expectancy. In contrast to moderate drinking, heavy alcohol consumption has been associated with an increased risk of dementia.
There was no evidence that the type of alcoholic beverage made any difference. Beer and hard liquor appeared to be just as protective as red wine. Most studies have also shown that it is the alcohol rather than something else in the beer, wine or hard liquor that is protective. Women who take estrogen appear to have a significant risk of breast cancer from even moderate consumption of alcohol. However, the results of this study suggest that as little as 1-3 drinks a week may provide some protection against dementia, and this amount is not likely to significantly increase the risk of breast cancer.
Bottom Line: Women taking estrogen and people with liver disease should be cautioned against even moderate alcohol intake. Alcohol consumption can be dangerous when combined with some drugs and herbs. However, moderate alcohol intake has been associated with an increased life expectancy and a decreased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and now possibly Alzheimer's disease and dementia. There seems little reason to discourage the consumption of moderate amounts of alcohol in most people.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.