If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve probably heard about research that shows drinking one to three glasses of champagne a week may stave off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This just in from the Acme School of Delusional Science, Department of Wishful Hypotheses. (Next up: Little Debbie Swiss Rolls Prevent Cancer.)
Seriously, this actual academic research was conducted at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom more than two years ago, but is now being re-reported by journalists worldwide after going viral on social media.
“These exciting results illustrate for the first time that the moderate consumption of champagne has the potential to influence cognitive functioning, such as memory,” University of Reading professor Jeremy Spencer said in a May 2013 press release. The phenolic compounds in bubbly “favorably alter a number of proteins linked to the effective storage of memories in the brain,” researchers said.
Their study was conducted over six weeks on 24 rats divided into three groups. One received daily champagne; another, a carbonated non-champagne alcoholic drink (likely a spritzer). The remaining group received a carbonated non-alcoholic drink. To arrive at their results, researchers measured the rats’ success at locating treats in a maze before and after the experiment.
Their findings? The champagne-tippling rats discovered the treats roughly five times out of eight, while the teetotalers found them only four times out of eight. The rats’ motor skills were also tested: After stepping out of their cars, they were asked to walk a straight line.
Actually, I made up that last part; researchers used a balance beam.
Nonetheless, the study raises important questions, namely: Where did researchers find those tiny champagne flutes? And, how many of the rats stuck their landings?
But none of this is amusing to the National Health Service in England, which was prompted by the renewed hoopla to issue a statement this week about the study’s limitations. “A slightly improved maze performance in a small number of rats does not necessarily translate into humans having a reduced risk of dementia from drinking champagne,” the NHS noted sternly. “The media sources do not report responsibly on this early-stage animal research.”
(Despite the buzzkill, they have a point. I became aware of the “news” through Country Living‘s reprint of Cosmo UK, which reported the findings as if they were released yesterday, and the salubrious amount of bubbly as three glasses every day. My.)
I’m hoping the naysayers will not deter the Reading researchers, who previously have shown that two glasses of champagne a day may be good for your heart and circulation, and could reduce the risks of suffering from cardiovascular disease and stroke.
In fact, I’m thinking of applying for their human subject pool, as they take their research to the next level.