In America, one in three seniors will die some form of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth top cause of death in the country. But two recent studies have turned up some surprising potential weapons in the fight against memory loss and Alzheimer’s. Traditionally associated with causing, rather than preventing, memory loss, both champagne and marijuana have actually been found to have beneficial brain-boosting properties.
One study, conducted by scientists at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, determined that consuming one to three glasses of champagne per week can help ward off memory loss.
Those researchers found that drinking the sparkling beverage in moderation can both counteract age-related memory loss and slow the onset of progressive brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The study, tested on rodents, discovered that the two types of red grapes used to produce champagne contain phenolic compounds, which are known to improve spatial memory. Jeremy Spencer of the University of Reading says “[t]hese exciting results illustrate for the first time that the moderate consumption of champagne has the potential to influence cognitive functioning, such as memory. Such observations have previously been reported with red wine, through the actions of flavonoids contained within it. However, our research shows that champagne, which lacks flavonoids, is also capable of influencing brain function through the actions of smaller phenolic compounds, previously thought to lack biological activity.”
Prior studies at the University of Reading have found some other surprising benefits of champagne consumption, including improved heart health and circulation and lowered risk of strokes and cardiovascular disease.
This doesn’t mean that people should start guzzling the bubbly, however. Researchers caution that their findings apply only to moderate champagne consumption. “We encourage a responsible approach to alcohol consumption, and our results suggest that a very low intake of one to two glasses a week can be effective,” explains Spencer.
This year, researchers at the Salk Institute in San Diego reported that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana, can help remove certain toxins that are linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The toxic proteins, known as amyloid beta, have been found in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Scientists believe that amyloid beta spur the growth of detrimental plaque deposits in the brain. Exposure to THC in this study caused a reduction in the levels of amyloid beta proteins, which would presumably lead to lower levels of those damaging plaque deposits that are responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.
A recent paper published by the British Journal of Pharmacology echoed this finding, reporting that marijuana does indeed help to prevent the onset of various types of age-related dementia.
But as is the case with the champagne studies, these THC findings aren’t a call for people to start smoking massive quantities of marijuana in an attempt to stave off memory loss. This latest study was not conducted on humans, but on neurons in a petri dish. Further research is needed to determine just how beneficial or detrimental marijuana consumption might be to the human brain.