Cheers! Hearing Health, Dementia Prevention and Beer May Mix

Judy Huch
July 5, 2016

HHTM Staff: Regular readers of HHTM know that we are keenly interested in research related to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia as well as general aspects of physical and mental health, especially as they relate to hearing loss.  Links between uncorrected hearing loss and mental disorders (depression, dementia) are fast becoming clear, though causal relationships remain unclear.  What we do know so far is that correcting hearing loss helps general Quality of Life (QOL) measures and seems to stave off some characteristics manifest by depression and dementia.

Some of us at HHTM have penchant for having a beer or a glass of wine, especially during holiday festivities . How did we get from dementia to drinking, you may ask.  It turns out that jump isn’t as odd as you’d think, based on Recent research summarized below.

An NIH-supported meta-analysis of 143 studies on the effects of alcohol on the brain reports that light to moderate drinking (maximum of 2 drinks/day for men and 1 drink/day for women) reduces risks for dementia and cognitive decline by 23%.

The researchers characterized the relationship as a “protective effect” of alcohol.  The protective effect was pervasive – it appeared to hold up for all types of dementia even when researchers adjusted for age, education, sex and smoking. Importantly, the relationship did not hold up for heaving drinking (>3 to 5 drinks/day).  What is not known from the study is whether those who consume moderate amounts of alcohol differ in other ways such as diet or exercise level.

The protective effect of moderate alcohol intake may affect the brain directly or indirectly via several avenues:

  • Alcohol raises good cholesterol, which could improve blood flow and reduce cardiovascular system problems.  If blood flow to the brain increased, it could reduce cardiovascular problems in the brain that are associated with cognitive decline.
  • Low levels of alcohol may be neuroprotective.  It is known that alcohol places brain cells under mild stress, which prompts the brain cells to increases “protective compounds.” The researchers theorize that this process “preconditions” brain cells by armoring them before they face damaging or killing conditions.

The lead author summarizes the study findings as follows:

 As long as the drinking was moderate it really seemed that alcohol per se was protective, not the type. Understanding the mechanism of alcohol’s protective effect could lead to a treatment to prevent cognitive impairment and dementia…. Whether it’s treatment with a pill or a lifestyle change, if we could understand the mechanism, it would improve our ability to deal with these illnesses.

As our readers know, HHTM is all about wellness and health living.  That includes hearing and brain protection so that we ALL can have a happy and productive life. Please take care of your hearing and your brains by wearing hearing aids if you need them and enjoying alcohol in moderation!

Photo courtesy of stock food

Leave a Reply