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Alcohol found to improve memory

Far from impairing your memory, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol in later life could actually help improve it, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, University of Kentucky, and University of Maryland found that for people aged 60 and over who do not have dementia, light alcohol consumption during later life could actually help them to remember events.

More than 660 patients were monitored as part of a study to determine the link between midlife and late-life alcohol consumption, cognitive functioning and regional brain volumes in older adults without dementia or a background of alcohol abuse.

The findings revealed that light and moderate alcohol consumption in older people was linked to the ability to recall memories of events better and a larger “hippocampal” volume – a part of the brain responsible for short and long term memory.

Furthermore, the results showed alcohol had no significant impact on executive function or overall mental ability.

Brian Downer of the University of Texas who headed the study, said: “There were no significant differences in cognitive functioning and regional brain volumes during late life according to reported midlife alcohol consumption status.

“This may be due to the fact that adults who are able to continue consuming alcohol into old age are healthier, and therefore have higher cognition and larger regional brain volumes, than people who had to decrease their alcohol consumption due to unfavourable health outcomes.”

Despite their positive findings, scientists warned that long periods of alcohol abuse – defined as consuming more than five alcoholic drinks in one sitting – is harmful to the brain.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Alzeimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.

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