NORWAY: Drinking wine can be good for the brain

At last, the news tipplers around the world have been waiting for - moderate drinking has been associated with good test scores. But the rider is that moderate drinking is probably an indicator of other good lifestyle habits that help people's brains perform well.

A study of 5,033 men and women in Tromsø, northern Norway, revealed that moderate wine consumption is independently associated with better performance on tests.

The people examined in the study had an average age of 58 and were free of stroke. They were followed for seven years and during that time they underwent a range of cognitive function tests.

The researchers found that women who drank wine at least four or more times over two weeks had a lower risk of returning a poor test score than those who did not drink at all during that time.

The scientists involved say it is likely to be a case of "moderate people doing moderate things".

"A positive effect of wine...could also be due to confounders such as socio-economic status and more favourable dietary and other lifestyle habits."

However, they also said that not drinking was associated with significantly lower cognitive performance in women.

The scientists said other lifestyle habits might be affecting cognitive function, and while they could not adjust their results for some - such as diet, income or profession - they did adjust for age, education, weight, depression and cardiovascular disease.

However, the results of this study support findings from previous research on the topic. In the last 30 years, the association between moderate alcohol intake and cognitive function has been investigated in 68 studies comprising 145,308 men and women from various populations with various drinking patterns.

Most of the studies showed an association between light to moderate alcohol consumption and better cognitive function and reduced risk of dementia, including both vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Such good effects could be caused by polyphenols or antioxidants in wine and other micro elements that may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline with ageing.

It has also been suggested that alcohol itself could be protective against cognitive decline through the effects on atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), coagulation (thickening of the blood and clotting), and reducing inflammation (of artery walls, improving blood flow).