Alcohol and Brain Health-Part I
A few weeks ago, we warned of the risks that alcohol consumption pose to brain health, based on a study by the Department of Psychology at Oxford University. Five hundred fifty people were tracked over thirty years, with detailed records of their health maintained. Anya Topiwala, PhD and Charlotte L. Allen, PhD led the project. From the study: “…even those drinking moderately had three times the odds of right sided hippocampal atrophy”
Also from that study: “Light-to-moderate drinking has been associated with a lower risk of dementia and a reduced incidence of myocardial infarction and stoke. Brain imaging studies, however, have thus far failed to provide a convincing neural correlate that could underpin any protective benefit.” Link to study here.
Further, the definition they used to determine a moderate amount were different than the old U.S. four once glass of wine, 1.5-ounce cocktail or ten-ounce beer. In all cases they were smaller. A half-pint of beer as an example, which is a couple of ounces less than ten.
Oxford University isn’t a lightweight school, and Topiwala and Allen are serious scientists.
Alcohol and Brain Heath-Part II
Then, last week, we get new research from the University of Rochester and the University of Copenhagen. The research team was led by Maiken Nedergaard, the discoverer of the glymphatic system. That is the system that scrubs your brain while you sleep – or, as recently referred to- the garbage truck of your brain. Dr. Nedergaard is also a very serious scientist, and highly regarded. Here’s a partial quote from her: “…however, in this study we have shown for the first time that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health, namely it improves the brain’s ability to remove waste”. Link to study here. One super-important point: one of the waste products that the glymphatic system cleans up are the proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease: tau and beta-amyloid.
Just what us laymen need: dueling scientists. One qualifying note: Nedergaard’s team used a mice model, whereas Topiwala and team tracked humans. My guess: if you drink, be really serious about portion control.
Not Enough Spice in Your Life? Think Yellow
We also found a study from UCLA, specifically, the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the UCLA Longevity Center. Dr. Gary Small and Dr. Prabha Siddarth are doing concentrated research on healthy aging. They found reasons to test curcumin to see if it really has a benefit for brain health. Curcumin is derived from the spice turmeric. Turmeric is widely used in India, particularly in curry. And, there is lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in India.
Small and Prabha recruited test subjects and selected a group of 249 “non-demented” subjects (their term; not mine). That group ran through all the medical tests as well as a specialized brain scan. Some participants got the usual placebo; the others got a supplement of curcumin twice a day. It turns out the curcumin isn’t very bioavailable, that is, our bodies don’t absorb it very well, so they used a specialized concentrated form that is more bioavailable.
After 18 months, everyone had a brain scan again. Results: better memory and attention in the supplemented group. And, why? Lower presence of….. you guessed it: tau and beta-amyloid. Link to the study here.
There you have it; two ways that promise to reduce stuff in your brain that seems to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Actually three – remember that sleep is when the glymphatic truck shows up.
We don’t sell supplements; however, we are looking into it. In the interim, since you’ve just been reminded that sleep is the key way to get the garbage out of your brain, we DO sell great sleep masks and fragrance kits that might help you relax and get a good night’s sleep.
If you have a friend who would benefit from these brain health tips, please pass this email along.
Always trying to grow bigger brains,
Blake, Blane & Gene
The Big Brain Team.