Can wine really help prevent dementia?

You may have seen various news stories talking about wine helping to lower the risk of brain diseases such as dementia. New analysis has shed further light on this theory, Ideal Wine Company reviews this.

While lots of studies seemed to show that wine in particular may lower the risk of dementia, scientists weren’t clear why. Meta-analysis of many of these studies has helped to clarify some of the results for scientists, although a full consensus is yet to be reached by the entire community.

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Does wine really help to prevent dementia?

Moderate alcohol consumption

The studies so far show that a low to moderate intake of wine on a daily basis could have some benefits for the brain. Sadly, scientists haven’t given the go-ahead to drink lots of bottles regularly!

Researchers have been working on the potential side effects of alcohol on the human brain over the last few years. Specifically, they have been looking at both the positive and negative effects wine could have on the risk of developing conditions like dementia.

As is often the case with scientific research, there is so much information out there, using different methodologies and coming up with varied results that it’s difficult to make sense of it all.

Meta-analysis by Chinese scientists

To try and throw some light on the issue, scientific researchers from Ocean University and Qingdao Municipal Hospital in China, recently completed meta-analysis of the data.

They analysed 11 studies on ‘all cause dementia’ (ACD) featuring 73,330 patients, as well as five Alzheimer’s dementia studies using data from 52,715 patients, and four vascular dementia studies featuring 49, 535 patients.

And their conclusions? They found that it does indeed look like a light to moderate intake of alcohol (this equates to just one drink a day or less), does indicate a lower risk of ACD than not drinking at all. However, they also found that heavier drinkers (more than three to four drinks a day, or 23 a week) face a higher risk of dementia.

Good news for wine lovers?

Seven of the studies looked at the kinds of alcohol consumed, and ended up concluding that wine is the only alcoholic drink that seems to have some protective effects against dementia. Again, this only concerns light to moderate intake. Heavy drinkers, particularly of beer, appear to have a higher risk of dementia.

As to why wine appears to protect the mind, the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research (ISFAR) critiqued the meta-analysis and discussed the findings. ISFAR consists of doctors, professors, public health specialists and scientists who are tasked with looking at the link between alcohol and health issues. They concluded that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the polyphenols that can be found in wine could be contributing to the results.

They also suggested other possibilities, including the fact that ethanol pushes acetylcholine to release in the brain and this is associated with improved cognitive functions. Overall the ISFAR concluded that the analysis was commendable for its large size, but that much more research needs to take place before we fully understand the complicated links between dementia and alcohol.

And as for the reasons why wine specifically appears to protect the brain, they concluded that it’s ‘still poorly understood’. The best way, according to experts on the panel, to enjoy the benefits of drinking wine is to drink it moderately, along with your food, throughout the week.

Research to Combat Drought in California

Global warming is changing approaches to agriculture and wine growing all around the world. And nowhere more so than in California, which has recently emerged from a devastating five year drought. Ideal Wine Company investigates into the matter.

While the drought is over in many areas, the urgent need to combat expected future droughts is mounting.

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Research is continuing to combat the drought seen in California.

Drip irrigation being tested

Wine growers and researchers are working hard to work out ways to grow crops using as little water as possible. One possible solution is subsurface drip irrigation, which places a tiny trickle of water specifically at the roots of the crop. By preventing evaporation, it ensures all the water is used where it’s needed.

So far, it’s being trialled across grain growing land in California in conjunction with the University of California and appears to be working.

Agriculture affected

Vineyards and farms are enjoying a bit of breathing space after the winter brought record rainfall, finally leading to full surface water for irrigation purposes. But scientists and the industry as a whole are under no illusion that a similar drought won’t happen again.

Spencer Cooper is California’s new senior manager of irrigation and water efficiency. He said: “We’re working right now to try to develop more precision irrigation systems and help growers irrigate on a smaller scale.”

It’s not only California’s wine industry that’s at stake. California boasts 80,500 farms, which provide almost three million jobs and irrigation is at the heart of its success. Around a third of California’s 25 million acres of working farmland is irrigated.

When will the next drought be?  
While research is ongoing, it’s possible there isn’t much time left before the next drought hits. There have been two extremely severe periods of drought over the last decade. Stanford University scientists have said that the drought is ‘very likely’ linked to global warming and they expect droughts will become more frequent, last longer and become more severe.

The last drought devastated the agricultural industry, costing more than $5.2 billion. Around 40,000 agricultural jobs were lost and 1 million acres had to be fallowed. Although groundwater pumping was employed on a massive scale, this isn’t sustainable long term.

Scientists, wine growers and the wider agricultural industry agree that lessons have been learned, and growers will be more prepared next time. Precise irrigation, where plants are given a small amount at the root seems to be the best way forward.