Moderate alcohol consumption was also linked with a larger volume in the hippocampus, a brain region critical for episodic memory. "Adults who are able to continue consuming alcohol into old age are healthier, and, therefore, have higher cognition and larger regional brain volumes, than people who had to decrease their alcohol consumption due to unfavourable health outcomes," said lead study author Brian Downer from the University of Texas' medical branch at Galveston in US.
For the study, researchers used data from more than 660 patients in the Framingham Heart Study. These patients completed surveys on their alcohol consumption and demographics, a battery of neuropsychological assessments, the presence or absence of the genetic Alzheimer's disease risk factor APOE e4 and MRIs of their brains.
The researchers found that light and moderate alcohol consumption in older people is associated with higher episodic memory and is linked with larger hippocampal brain volume.
"Amount of alcohol consumption had no impact on executive function or overall mental ability," Downer added. Findings from animal studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may contribute to preserved hippocampal volume by promoting generation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus.
The findings were detailed in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias.