Does beer protect from dementia?

Submitted on Wed, 05/25/2016 - 11:26

While most people will agree that excessive amounts of alcohol have a detrimental effect on the brain, there is less agreement regarding the effects of light or moderate drinking.

There is concern and controversy surrounding the effects of drinking on the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s (AD). This study conducted at the University of Tampere investigated the association between consumption of different alcoholic beverages – beer, wine, and spirits – and one of the neuropathological signs of Alzheimer’s disease, β-amyloid (Aβ) aggregation in the brain.

Researchers examined data collected on 125 males participating in the Helsinki Sudden Death autopsy Series, ages at death ranging from 35 to 70 years. Consumption of alcohol, Aβ aggregation in the brain, and apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype were assessed.

Surviving relatives answered a questionnaire in order to gather the drinking history of the deceased, and Aβ was observed by immunohistochemical staining of brain sections.

The findings suggest that beer consumption may protect against Aβ aggregation in the brain. The findings were based on statistical analyses examining the association between the type of alcohol, alcohol consumption and Aβ aggregation. The researchers found that beer drinkers developed fewer brain lesions caused by β-amyloid. Thus beer drinking may protect against such symptoms.

Beer contains, among other things, B vitamins and micronutrients which are important for the nervous system and repair.

The amount of alcohol consumed was not linked with Aβ aggregation, and neither was spirit nor wine consumption.

Given that the development of dementia occurs over several years and even decades, the researchers call for additional studies to identify early and mid-life factors that may stimulate or protect against Aβ aggregation.

The research article was published in the online edition of the journal Alcoholism: Experimental and Clinical Research on 24 May 2016,

Beer Drinking Associates with Lower Burden of Amyloid Beta Aggregation In the Brain: Helsinki Sudden Death Series. E.H. Kok, T.T. Karppinen, T. Luoto, I. Alafuzoff, P. Karhunen.

For more information, please contact:
Postdoctoral research fellow, PhD Eloise Mikkonen (nee Kok), tel. +358 44 293 6236