Recently the media has been abuzz over a relatively old study. Some sites have even claimed that drinking three glasses of champagne a week is good for the brain and can even prevent dementia! Before you pop the cork, we wanted to let you know that these headlines are far from the sobering truth. This is a classic case of the media misinterpreting science and misinforming the public about it.
As memory and cognitive function are ‘hot topics’ in the field of aging, we want to tell you what the study actually showed and what it means for you.
A Closer Look at the Methods and Results
Before looking at the findings of any study at all, it’s important to know what steps the researchers took to get to their results and conclusions. In this particular study on champagne, researchers divided 24 rats evenly into three groups. One of these groups received champagne equivalent to what would be approximately 1.3 glasses for a human, per time. The researchers claimed that this dose affected spatial memory — memory related to knowing directions (for example, knowing where your friend lives). They found that the rats that had champagne made, on average, five out of eight correct choices in the spatial memory test. This was deemed statistically significant compared to other rats, which made four out of eight correct choices in the test. It is extremely important to note that although the statistics showed champagne increased spatial memory, the number of rats was very small, and the effect on memory was minimal (probably not enough to matter in real life). Furthermore, all other results showed no significant differences between conditions.
It is then safe to conclude that this study doesn’t strongly support the claim that champagne helps with spatial memory, let alone prevent dementia.
Ok, So Champagne Does Not Help. What Does?
We touched on this topic in a previous article about the brain structure that seems to be key to memory — the hippocampus. It is best kept healthy through moderate exercise as well as eating a healthy diet, such as those with those with fatty fish. In fact, studies — and probably your personal experiences — have shown that alcohol may actually impair cognitive ability as we age.
(Feature photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)