While most people will agree that excessive consumption of alcohol can have a detrimental effect on the brain, there is less agreement regarding the effects of light or moderate drinking. This includes concern and controversy surrounding the effects of drinking on the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's (AD). This study 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 from 125 males participating in the Helsinki sudden death autopsy series, who at the time of death were 35 to 70 years old. Consumption of alcohol, Aβ aggregation in the brain, and apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype were assessed. Surviving relatives answered a questionnaire used to gather the drinking history of the deceased, and Aβ was observed by immunohistochemical staining of brain sections.
Findings suggest that beer consumption may protect against Aβ aggregation in the brain. The amount of alcohol consumed was not linked with Aβ aggregation, and neither was spirit or wine consumption. Given that the development of dementia occurs over several years and even decades, the authors call for additional studies to identify early and mid-life factors that may stimulate or protect against Aβ aggregation.
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