Can Drinking Beer Help Protect Against Alzheimer's Disease?

Beer drinkers were negatively associated with the presence of Aß-IR
Beer drinkers were negatively associated with the presence of Aß-IR

A new study of autopsies found that beer drinkers had a lower prevalence of Aß aggregation in the brain, one of the neuropathological lesions of  Alzheimer's disease, compared to those who did not drink beer.

Using data from The Helsinki Sudden Death Series (HSDS), researchers identified 125 subjects who had alcohol consumption and Aß information available. They examined ß-amyloid (Aß) aggregation in the brain to assess whether Aß-immunoreactivity (IR) was present or not. 

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Results from a Chi-square analyses showed that beer drinking was negatively associated with the presence of Aß-IR (P=0.021). The negative association persisted when subjects were grouped by age (<55 years and >55 years). Aß-IR was identified in 22% of the younger non-beer drinkers (n=18), while it was only identified in 5% (n=40) of the beer drinkers (P=0.046).

Although beer consumption was significantly associated with the presence of Aß-IR, the statistical significance was reduced when age (P=0.062) and APOEe4 (P=0.076) were taken into account.

The researchers stated that it is unknown how detrimental low doses of alcohol are, but because the study included only 40 cases in which the duration of alcohol consumption was available, no outcomes could be gleaned in this regard. Neither the amount of alcohol consumed nor the spirit or wine consumed was linked to Aß aggregation, they reported. 

As to why there was a negative association between beer consumption and Aß-IR presence, the authors suggested a number of possible explanations including, “alcohol consumption having differential effects depending on APOEe4 status.” They also noted how B vitamin components in beer reduce hyperhomocysteinemia and how its effects on methylation may provide protection against Aß aggregation.

To fully understand the relation between Aß-IR reductions and beer consumption, the authors write that a future study would require "detailed information of nutrient metabolites."

“Further studies are required to fully understand the extent of beneficial alcohol consumption, especially in relation to the amounts and types of alcohol consumed,” the authors concluded.

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