"Moderate consumption is the key factor," said Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, who, with his colleagues, points out excessive drinking carries its own health risks.
The findings support epidemiological research that has found moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a lower risk of dementia.
The researchers genetically altered mice to have a defect that caused them to build up amyloid plaques in their brains over time. Then, the scientists put either cabernet sauvignon or ethanol -- which is found in alcoholic beverages -- in the water of one of two groups of mice, and gave plain water to a control group. After seven months, the mice went three days without alcohol, and were then put through a series of maze tests to analyze their memory.
The wine-drinking mice escaped from the maze significantly faster than either the mice drinking plain water or ethanol-laced water.
This, combined with separate studies that show moderate wine consumption may protect the heart, leads Pasinetti to suggest that older people can drink moderate amounts of wine as part of a healthy lifestyle if they are in a good state of health without metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, liver problems, alcohol dependency issues, or other alcohol-related problems. He added that wine drinking is "a good lifestyle factor that everybody appears to like."
At least one critic of conventional medicine felt the results of the test proved something beyond just the health benefits of wine.
"I find it fascinating that those involved in conventional medicine -- and even most doctors -- believe very strongly in the health benefits of drinking red wine, and yet they are reluctant to recognize the healing power of nutrition," said Mike Adams, author of "The Seven Laws of Nutrition." "But where do they think the power of red wine comes from? It's from the healing phytonutrients in the grapes. All the benefits of red wine are nutritional benefits derived from natural medicine found in grape skin and grape seeds."