Drinking Red Wine Can Slow Your Inevitable Mental Decay

Time to bust out the decanter and live it up, Dorian Gray-style.

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Aug 10 2015, 9:00pm

Some days, the slide into decrepitude seems oddly imminent. The things that make this monotonous trudge to our graves worthwhile also seem to be inexorably awful for us.

The sun causes wrinkles. Whiskey can destroy the liver. Eating red meat off of the thighs of an exotic dancer? You probably won't mind the extra pounds after you're done with your next doctor's visit. These things—like so many others that cause bacchanal delight—have merit only in the moment and your memory.

READ: This 110-Year-Old Lady Says Whiskey and Cheap Beer Are the Keys to Longevity

But wait. Researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have just announced some good news for your 80-year-old self. And no, they didn't invent a way to ingest Sanka intravenously.

Do you want to do him or her—I'm talking about the wizened, 80-year-old version of yourself, the one with marzipan for skin—a favor today? Have a glass of red wine. And have one every blessed day for the next several decades.

That's right. Red wine, along with a diet based on other stuff that's good for you (more on that soon), may slow cognitive decline by as much as seven and a half years.

The Rush researchers evaluated the cognitive function of a group of 960 people who averaged 81 years in age. Over a period of almost five years, the scientists evaluated their subjects' brain functioning in five areas: perceptual speed, working memory, semantic memory, episodic memory, and visuospatial ability.

The geezers who stuck to what is known as the "MIND" diet fared the best. They were found to have brain function that was significantly better than those who didn't eat the specified diet. And—at least for our purposes—the most important part of that diet was one glass of vino rosso per day.

MIND stands for the Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It is a combo of the Mediterranean and DASH or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diets. One of its developers, Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist, said that the MIND diet "modifies the Mediterranean and DASH diets to highlight the foods and nutrients shown through the scientific literature to be associated with dementia prevention."

So what do you have to eat to delay the onset of dementia, the primary cause of which is Alzheimer's? Here it is: Three servings of whole grains, a green leafy vegetable, and one other vegetable every day. You should snack on nuts. Eat beans every other day, poultry and berries at least twice a week, and fish at least once a week.

And you should drink a glass of red wine every single day! No need to get your dementor on and suck on some souls to stay youthful.

OK, the researchers also say you should limit so-called "unhealthy" foods, like butter, to one tablespoon a day. They suggest having less than one serving a week of items such as sweets and pastries, whole-fat cheese, and fried or fast food. Yikes. No foie gras? No bourbon?

READ: The Danish Butter Industry Would Like You to Know That Butter Is Bad for You

"Everyone experiences decline with aging; and Alzheimer's disease is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the US, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases," according to Morris. "Delaying dementia's onset by just five years can reduce the cost and prevalence by nearly half."

Seven more years before we plant ourselves in front of the 2070 equivalent of Judge Judy, mumbling about the good old days when we carried our digital devices in our hands and didn't have them implanted in our godforsaken bodies? I'll take it!

"There is still a great deal of study we need to do in this area, and I expect that we'll make further modifications as the science on diet and the brain advances," Morris said.

Researchers, study to your heart's delight. Just don't take away our red wine. Time to bust out the decanter and live it up, Dorian Gray-style.