Alcohol could improve memory among seniors

Alcohol could improve memory among seniors

While drinking alcohol is not typically a practice associated with brain health, according to a new study published by a trio of university research teams, light alcohol consumption among seniors may actually aid in stimulating better memory.

The research, which was conducted between the University of Texas Medical Branch, the University of Kentucky and the University of Maryland, focused on the link between late life alcohol consumption and brain volume.  According to the researchers, light to moderate drinking in individuals over the age of 60 could be linked to both a greater ability to remember events, otherwise known as episodic memory, and a larger volume of the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with episodic memory.

Compared to late life abstainers, moderate consumer had larger hippocampal volume, and light consumers had higher episodic memory,” Brian Downer, lead author on the study and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Sealy Center on Aging said. “The findings from this study provide new evidence that hippocampal volume may contribute to observed differences in episodic memory among older adults.”

The research team analyzed the survey results of more than 660 patients who reported their behaviors regarding alcohol use as well as information about their ages and general health.   Using those responses as a benchmark, scientists performed MRIs and other tests on the participants to observe their brain activity and acuity.  Results from the study were published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.

However, despite any benefits that they observed, the study authors still caution that alcohol can be dangerous and harmful to health when used irresponsibly.  For as many studies that show the health benefits of red wine, there are many more linking alcohol to poor sleep, failed pregnancies and even memory loss.

As with anything, alcohol is best enjoyed in moderation – according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a safe, moderate amount of alcohol is no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

Learn more about alcohol use, its risks and its potential benefits here.

Related Posts



  1. Debi Jordan

    Something to look forward to when I turn 60!

  2. Interesting, not long ago we were told the dangers of alcohol to those under 21 years of age due to developing brains. Now, on the other end of the genealogical spectrum, we hear the opposite. This is probably the first Advocate enews article that has piqued my interested. Hopefully, we will learn more about this in future editions.

  3. Toni Mooney Gardner October 30, 2014 at 10:56 am · Reply

    Excellent story!

  4. Dr. Ashwani Garg

    I would never recommend alcohol to patients because all I see is misery with alcohol in the elderly including alcoholism, dizziness, falls, heartburn, pancreatitis, sleep problems, impaired driving, and many more! Most people can’t moderate it, and I will not be convinced that it is healthy. The beneficial properties of alcohol is in the juice, not in the alcohol. So, drink 3-4 oz of 100% concord grape juice instead, or eat more grapes, fruits, berries, but please don’t tell the seniors to drink more alcohol.

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.