There have been many studies showing both positive and negative benefits of alcohol consumption, with more of the beneficial studies centering around moderate consumption compared with heavier consumption. Depending upon the definition of “moderate”, even within the moderate consumption “level”, studies have been inconsistent in terms of their findings in relation to human health.
The exact mechanism for supposed health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption is so far unknown, though theories do exist.
Some observed health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption
include: reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, and in general all-cause mortality. High levels of the antioxidant bilirubin have been observed in people with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, begging the question whether or not moderate alcohol consumption could be at least partially responsible for this increase.
A new study accepted into the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence aimed to examine bilirubin levels after alcohol consumption, in an attempt to create a possible mechanistic link between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
18 healthy adults (8 smokers) were given alcohol to achieve blood alcohol levels of 20, 80, and 120mg/dL in random order during three sessions separated by one week each time.
Serum bilirubin levels were measured in the morning before the drinking session, at 2pm the day of the drinking session, and in the morning the day after the drinking session.
Serum bilirubin levels increased from baseline to 24 hours post drinking in non-smokers.
Serum bilirubin levels DID NOT increase after drinking in smokers.
The results of this study suggest a possible mechanism for reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality after moderate alcohol consumption in non-smokers. For non-smokers, serum bilirubin levels increased, resulting in possible anti-oxidant protection properties for these improved health benefits.
Smokers, on the other hand, were not so lucky, as serum bilirubin levels remained unchanged after moderate alcohol consumption.
Smoking somehow prevented serum bilirubin levels from increasing, thus negating any possible health benefit of moderate alcohol consumption caused by increased bilirubin levels in the blood.
This study only followed 18 adults, therefore follow up studies with larger sample sizes are required to confirm or refute this possible mechanistic link between moderate alcohol consumption, increased serum bilirubin levels, and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality.
Nutrition, lifestyle, and diet choices have been implicated as influencing cognitive health of various populations. Specifically,
research has shown that adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with improved cognitive health and brain aging in the elderly population.
A new review in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care focused on the longitudinal studied published between 2013 and mid-2014 on the effect of diet on cognitive health and brain aging. A total of 6 longitudinal studies and 2 large-scale meta-analyses were performed during this time.
The two meta-analyses indicate that there appears to be an effect of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on cognitive health in the elderly.
Adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduces risk of Alzheimer’s.
Adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduces risk of cognitive impairment.
The six longitudinal studies from the US and Europe show mixed results in the effect of Mediterranean diet adherence and cognitive health benefits.
At present, there is a lack of evidence supporting the idea that the Mediterranean diet is an “optimal dietary strategy” for reducing the risk of age-related cognitive health problems.
The results of this review suggest that there are a lot of inconsistencies in results of several recent studies related to adherence to the Mediterranean diet and cognitive health in the elderly. In general, there does seem to be evidence to support the idea that the Mediterranean diet may be beneficial for long-term mental health in some populations,
however, the inconsistencies make it difficult to generalize across all populations (for example, all elderly).
While some studies may show benefit, differences in experimental design as well as sample size make it very difficult to draw any conclusions on a general population level. Much more research is needed to clear up these discrepancies, and researchers should be more careful when planning experimental design such that reviews of current literature may (or may not!) reveal more interpretable results.