Reports went viral on social media that champagne three times a week could help delay the onset of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Unfortunately, the buzz relies on a 2013 study that involved rats, not humans. Reports went viral on social media that champagne three times a week could help delay the onset of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Unfortunately, the buzz relies on a 2013 study that involved rats, not humans.

Reports went viral on social media that champagne three times a week could help delay the onset of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Unfortunately, the buzz relies on a 2013 study that involved rats, not humans.

Nancy Badertscher
By Nancy Badertscher November 17, 2015

Here's a toast to some very bad information on booze and dementia

A story making the rounds on social media raises hopes about raising glasses.

A "new" study, the headlines cheer, shows drinking champagne — three glasses every week or every day depending who is posting the story — could prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

But before deciding to make three-hour brunches the new healthy workday, PolitiFact Georgia did some checking.

We didn’t find the new breakthrough study that some might have been expecting.

Rather, we discovered social media abuzz about a study from May 2013 by scientists at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. Those researchers found that drinking  champagne might counteract age-related memory loss and help delay the onset of degenerative brain disorders, such as dementia, according to a press release at the time.

Rats, not humans, were subjects in the research.

For reasons still unclear, the study’s headline findings went viral on social media and cracked Facebook’s list of trending topics this month, nearly three years after the study.

"Three glasses of champagne ‘could help Alzheimer’s disease’" was the headline on The United Kingdom’s Evening Standard’s Facebook post Nov. 9.

News outlets picked the story up from social media. Most but not all pointed out that the study was not brand new. The attention prompted Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to issue a statement Nov. 9, declaring that there’s "no hard evidence champagne can prevent dementia."

The agency explained that the University of Reading’s 2013 study was small — it involved three groups of eight rats.

n a six-week period, the rats had champagne, non-champagne alcoholic drink, or an alcohol-free drink. Each rat was assessed on its ability to find treats in a maze before and after this period.

The main finding: rats given champagne were better at remembering how to find the treat than those given the alcohol-free drink. They found the treats roughly five times out of eight, compared with four times out of eight in rats given the other drinks, NHS said.

The agency recommended that the study be repeated with a larger sample of rats and pointed out that "this research has limited direct applicability to humans.

"The fact that rats may have performed slightly better in a maze, or demonstrated some protein changes related to nerve adaptability, does not mean champagne definitely reduces the risk of dementia in humans."

Ginny Helms, vice president of chapter services and public policy for the Georgia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said the 2013 study was very limited "and not at all conclusive on how champagne or other forms of alcohol can help prevent Alzheimer’s.

"No one should drink champagne or other alcohol as a method of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia based on this study," she said. "Some studies have found that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce risk of cognitive decline and dementia, but other studies had contradictory results."

Absent a cure or major breakthrough, the association suggests a combination of a healthy diet, exercise, socialization and exercise of the mind as the best way to protect the brain, Helms said.

Managing critical numbers, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, also is highly recommended, she said.

The buzz on champagne started just days before the association released a major report that includes some staggering statistics on the rising financial burden to states of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Currently, Medicaid programs in 11 states — New York, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina – pay more than $1 billion a year on individuals 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, the association reports.

Fast forward 10 years to 2025, and the association estimates that 20 states — Georgia included — will be in this boat.

Alzheimer’s and other dementia costs the Peach State’s Medicaid program $989 million this year. But, in 10 years, costs are expected to increase 61 percent to $1.59 billion by the association’s estimates.

Our ruling

Social media recently resurrected an old study Stories were posted  suggesting that drinking champagne could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The study is from 2013, not new, as some posts suggested.

It was based on testing in a small group of rats, which the National Health Service in Britain says would need to be repeated in a larger sample. And it still might not have any implications in humans.

To imply otherwise is very misleading.

We rate the statement False.

Our Sources

"Scientists reveal drinking champagne could improve memory," press release, University of Reading, May 7, 2013

"No hard evidence champagne can prevent dementia," NHS United Kingdom, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015

"Drinking three glasses of champagne per week could help stave off dementia and Alzheimer's disease," Daily Mirror, Nov. 9, 2015

Phone interview with Ginny Helms, vice president of chapter services and public policy for the Georgia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association

"Will drinking champagne stop me getting dementia? A study found that it improved spatial awareness, so it might be easier to find the way home from the pub. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we’re talking about rats, not humans." The Guardian, Nov. 16, 2015

"Drinking champagne every day 'could help prevent dementia and Alzheimer's'" Cosmopolitan By Zara Kenyon Nov. 9, 2015
"Three glasses of fizz a day 'could improve your memory'" The Telegraph y Victoria Ward on May 5, 2013

"Cheers! Study Reveals Drinking Champagne Helps Prevent Alzheimer's," Latin Times, by          By Maria G. Valdez on Nov. 11, 2015

"Champagne prevents dementia? Questionable, but here's why we're drinking it anyway," by Marissa Conrad, Chicago Tribune, on Nov. 10, 2015

"Exercise, Counseling, and DHA May Slow Cognitive Lapse: Older patients with memory problems respond well to 'multidomain' approach," by Kristina Fiore, MedPage Today

"The Impact of Alzheimer’s Disease on Medicaid Costs: A Growing Burden for States" Alzheimer’s Association

 

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