Jeanne Tripplehorn 06.10.1963

Can Margaritas Improve Memory?

It’s Friday afternoon and the end of a horribly stressful week.  I know that stress is bad for the brain and that this past week brain cells must have been dying off by the dozens.  Sure, I can protect my brain by producing stress-resistant brain cells through aerobic exercise. I know that I should go home and use the elliptical until I can’t stand up any longer. I should, I should, I should… but I don’t want to!  I’d rather get-together with my girlfriends, grumble about my week, laugh and drink a giant Cadillac Margarita. Luckily, there’s evidence that my plan may not be the worst thing for my brain. If fact, it may even protect it… 


 Recently, a large, systematic review of research on health behaviors and dementia produced some unexpected results. Moderate alcohol consumption tended to be protective against cognitive decline and dementia. So, it turns out that folks on either extremes of the drinking spectrum, nondrinkers and frequent drinkers, exhibited a higher risk for dementia and cognitive impairment. Is this not a fabulous finding ?


 Unfortunately, there isn’t a consensus on how to specify”moderate” drinking.  Some studies defined moderate drinking as up to three glasses of wine a day! The American Heart Association disagrees. In terms of cardiovascular risks, they define moderate drinking as one drink per day, such as 4 oz of wine, 1.5 oz of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz of 100-proof spirits. They also claim that wine is not necessarily better for us than other types of alcohol.  In their view, the jury is still out on that one.


Well, the best known benefit of moderate alcohol consumption is an increase in HDL cholesterol–the good cholesterol. Antioxidants may also play a role. So, if you are concerned about anti-oxidants but you want that margarita instead of a glass of red wine, enhance the antioxidants.  Stay away from those fattening, sugary mixes and use lots of fresh lime juice or make a pomegranate margarita. Fresh limes have lots of Vitamin C and flavinoids. Flavonoids are being studied for their antioxidant, anticarcinogenic and antibiotic properties.  To get the most juice out of those precious limes,  roll them on the counter and make sure that they are at room temperature before juicing.

Be careful not to  smoke or eat lots of chips while drinking your margarita.  The same review showed that a history of smoking elevated the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Midlife obesity had an adverse effect on cognitive function in later life.

There are added health and brain benefits from spending the evening with my girlfriends, kvetching and laughing, as opposed to alone on my elliptical. Keep an eye out for our post on the health and cognitive benefits of socializing and social support.  I do know that I come home in a much better mood. So, at the very least, my Friday night margaritas improve my family’s health and cognitive functioning.


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