Could drinking champagne prevent dementia? Sipping on a glass of bubbly may in fact ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re doing a little happy dance right now, you might want to take the celebration down a notch (i.e., don’t pop the cork just yet). So, what’s the real deal with the buzz about the bubbly and brain disease?

According to researchers at Reading University, an experiment involving rats and a chemical compound in black grapes (which are used to make pinot noir and pinot meunier) found a link between the moderate consumption of champagne and better brain function. Ok, so what does this all mean? Forgoing the science-y stuff that none of us ever seem to understand, it seems as though the primary discovery here is that rats have better memories after drinking champagne. Yay? Supposing you’re a rat – that’s fab news for you! Now, supposing you’re a human – it’s only a questionable connection as of now.

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) breaks it down like this: Three groups of adult male rats got three drinks a day (each group got either champagne, a carbonated alcoholic drink that wasn’t champagne and a carbonated drink that contained no alcohol at all) mashed up with powdered food or a six week period of time. The rats were then given a maze test to assess spatial memory. Each rat took eight tests each time, with a food reward at the end of each chamber and tunnel maze. The scientists then took a look at the rats’ brains to find out if the area involved in memory and learning had changed. How much alcohol did it take to see a change? Each rat was given the rodent equivalent of 1.3 125 ml glasses a champagne a week (for humans, that is). By six-weeks the rats who were given the champagne had better maze memory test results than at the beginning of testing. This doesn’t mean that the rats got faster – just more accurate over time.

And, what of the teeny tiny rat brains? Researchers found that the champagne-drinking rats had an increased level of proteins that affect the ability of nerve cells to adapt. The researchers believe that some of the chemical components of the champagne caused the effect. In a University of Reading press release, Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences Professor Jeremy Spencer said, “These 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.”

That said, Spencer doesn’t recommend plying yourself with champagne to boost your spatial memory skills, saying,

“We encourage a responsible approach to alcohol consumption, and our results suggest that a very low intake of one or two glasses a week can be effective.”

Before breaking out the bubbly in an effort to keep brain-based decline away, consider this – you are not a rat. Not only was the study fairly small in size (only three groups of eight rats were used), but it hasn’t been replicated in human beings. This doesn’t mean the research is ‘wrong’ or that champagne may have no impact on cognitive decline. What it does mean is that there is a definite need for further study. Repeating the results (minus the brain dissection of course) on humans is a must to give this theory credibility. The University of Reading reports that study researcher Dr. David Vauzour said, “In the near future we will be looking to translate these findings into humans. This has been achieved successfully with other polyphenol-rich foods, such as blueberry and cocoa, and we predict similar outcomes for moderate Champagne intake on cognition in humans.”

What’s the take-home from this study? If you’re looking for an excuse to pour yourself a glass of the bubbly stuff once or twice a week, now you have an excuse that’s actually published in an academic journal.


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