If you enjoy consuming alcohol, you’ll never be at a loss for quasi-scientific studies justifying your behavior. If you oppose alcohol consumption, same deal. The literature is divided and anecdotal studies abound. Fortunately, Finland is a heavy-drinking nation with scientists willing to get their hands dirty — and bloody.
The new study attempts to shed light on the substance’s effects. This study, though, actually delved inside brains — 125 brains, to be precise — to examine alcohol’s relationship to the onset of Alzheimer’s. These 125 brains all came from deceased males between the ages of 35 and 70. Family members estimated their drinking habits in a questionnaire.
While the etiology for Alzheimer’s isn’t yet well understood, scientists have determined that the peptide amyloid beta (Aβ) plays a significant role. Aβ seems at least in part responsible for the amyloid plaques, which scientists think is in turn responsible for the disease’s symptoms.
So that’s what these researchers investigated: Aβ levels. They found that the brains of those who were beer drinkers in life had “significantly lower” Aβ levels. But the “beer” part is key: the study did not find any strong correlations between liquor or wine consumption and reduced Aβ levels.
The authors conclude with a tentative takeaway: “Beer consumption may protect against Aβ aggregation in brain.” However, they add, “Further studies are necessary to fully understand the effects of alcohol on Aβ pathology seen in brain tissue.” So while it’s good news for beer drinkers around the planet, and another study that they can chalk up on the scoreboard, it’s not exactly definitive. To their credit, though, the scientists actually got inside some brains — and didn’t only rely on hearsay.