Wine and cheese is good for your brains

a wine and cheese spread
Photo: David Silverman / Contributor (Getty Images)

Let’s file this under “news we actually want to hear.” According to ScienceDaily, drinking wine and eating cheese can possibly protect you against cognitive decline.

The whole wine-as-healthy thing always feels like it’s a teeter-totter. Sometimes it’s in a positive direction, and then sometimes I’ll hear again that drinking wine is suddenly bad for you. Add cheese to the mix, and fuck it, I’m down. I feel like half my diet is cheese, and this was even before I became a pizza maker.

This study was headed by Auriel Willette, an assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Brandon Klinedinst, a Neuroscience PhD candidate working in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department, both at Iowa State University. It’s been hailed as the first large scale analysis that correlates specific types of food to later-in-life cognitive function.

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The data was polled from 1,787 aging people from 46 to 77 years old in the United Kingdom through the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database that contains genetic and health info from around half a million participants. The database is a resource for researchers who are looking for insight into common and life-threatening diseases.

As part of the study, participants completed what is called a Fluid Intelligence Test between 2006 and 2010, along with two followups in 2012-2013 and 2015-2016. This test captures an individual’s ability to think on the fly.

Diet was also taken into consideration, including types of alcohol consumption (red wine, white wine, beer, cider, champagne, and liquor) along with regular intake on things like fruit, vegetables (both raw and cooked), various types of fish and meat, cheese, cereal, tea, and coffee.

What’s interesting are the biggest findings of the study. Cheese was the most protective food against age-related cognitive issues. Daily consumption of red wine also helped improve cognitive function. So did lamb eaten weekly. But the study also found that excessive salt intake should be avoided especially for people who are at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, as it could exacerbate issues later in life.

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“I was pleasantly surprised that our results suggest that responsibly eating cheese and drinking red wine daily are not just good for helping us cope with our current COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down,” Willette said.

Klinedinst added, “Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimer’s, while other seem to be at greater risk. That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether. Perhaps the silver bullet we’re looking for is upgrading how we eat. Knowing what that entails contributes to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s and putting this disease in a reverse trajectory.”

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The cheese and wine thing is going to make a lot of people happy, but I’m particularly intrigued to the lamb findings. Lamb is an infrequent part of my own diet (I love it, but it’s generally kind of expensive and I’m not good at cooking it). So here’s a toast to some moderate drinking along with a cheese board and an occasional lamb chop to keep your brain working until you reach the ripe old age, or whenever people can describe your age as ripe.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

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DISCUSSION

I’m not a big fan of lamb (since a UK visit at 17 - it was MATURE and gamey). BUT a good roast can be as good as a nice cut of beef. Aldi (again) occasionally has roasts already seasoned with garlic, red wine and rosemary. Mom and aunt are fans so when they visit I’ll pop one in the slow cooker (with carrotts, red potatoes and onions) and when you take the net off it falls apart.

I avoid the fat because that does taste more like mutton. Strongish. Not a fan.