Scientists have long debated the link between alcohol consumption and Alzheimer’s disease. Some believe drinking red wine in moderation can be beneficial for health, while others argue that alcohol consumption can accelerate cognitive decline. Recently, scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) conducted a study to determine the link between alcohol consumption and Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s what you need to know about this research.
Amyloid Plaques: The Trademark Sign of Alzheimer’s
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease is the development of amyloid plaques. These protein plaques accumulate and disrupt the brain’s cellular transmission system, which reduces the brain’s ability to store new and old memories. In a healthy brain, the glymphatic system gets rid of the unwanted amyloid via the blood and lymphatic systems. The process largely occurs during sleep, which is why a healthy sleep regimen is an essential component of any Alzheimer’s prevention plan.
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The Importance of Activated Microglial Cells
The operations of the glymphatic system are carried out by activated microglial cells. These cells are the brain’s primary line of defense against all potential threats, not just unhealthy protein accumulation. The scientists at UIC set out to test whether alcohol impacted the efficacy of these activated microglial cells.
The UIC Study
The researchers at UIC hypothesized that long-term alcohol consumption leads to inflammation of the microglial cells and reduced cellular function. To test their hypothesis, they experimented on three groups of rats. The first group was exposed to alcohol, the second to inflammatory cells, and the third to alcohol and inflammatory cells.
The scientists found that alcohol exposure does impact the function of microglial cells. In fact, the microglial cells studied in the third group of rats were inhibited by about 15 percent. Just one hour after they were exposed to alcohol, these cells were 15 percent less effective at clearing away amyloid protein, which suggests there’s a distinct correlation between alcohol consumption and the brain’s ability to defend itself against potential threats.
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Is There a Link Between Alzheimer’s and Alcohol?
When the brain’s ability to clear away amyloid protein is diminished, it creates a cognitive environment more susceptible to Alzheimer’s. Because alcohol can lower the brain’s defenses, seniors at risk for Alzheimer’s should avoid excessive consumption.
While scientists have established a correlation between excessive drinking and Alzheimer’s risk, they’re still not sure when consumption begins to take a toll on cognitive health. If they want to prevent Alzheimer’s, seniors should never drink in excess. If older adults do drink, they should stick to healthier alcohol options such as red wine, which contains high levels of the antioxidant resveratrol.
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