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Moderate drinking linked to lower levels of Alzheimer’s brain protein

Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced levels of beta amyloid, the brain plaque protein of Alzheimer’s disease, suggests a new study.

Korean researchers studied 414 men and women, average age 71 years old, free of dementia or alcohol-related disorders. All have undergone physical exams, mental acuity tests and PET and M.R.I. scans. They were carefully interviewed about their consumption habits.

The study, in PLOS Medicine, measured the consumption of “standard drinks”: 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1/2 ounce of hard liquor. Compared to teetotalers, those who drank one to 13 standard drinks per week had a 66% lower rate of beta-amyloid deposits in the brain.

The results only apply to those who have drunk moderately for decades and not to those who have recently started drinking moderately or have drunk more than 13 drinks per week.

The study controlled age, sex, education, socioeconomic status, body mass index, vascular health and many other factors.

Dr. Dong Young Lee, senior author and professor of psychiatry at Seoul National University College of Medicine, cautioned that it was an observational study that looked at people at a certain point in time and showed no cause and effect.

However, he said, “In people without dementia and without alcohol abuse or addiction, moderate drinking appears to be beneficial in brain health.”

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