By Dr. Anthony Policastro

For years there has been a recommendation that a glass of wine with dinner was beneficial. However, on May 12 a study out of Oxford raised doubts about the impact of moderate drinking.

They looked at MRI images that were done during 2006-2010. They found those studies that were of a usable quality. They then contacted those individuals. They asked them to fill out a questionnaire about their drinking habits.

Only about five percent of people (about 25,00 individuals) responded to the request to fill out the questionnaire. That group was in general healthier than the average population. They tended to be better educated. They tended to be better off socioeconomically. They tended to be less ethnically diverse.

Therefore, there was some self selection ahead of time. That means the results need to be taken with a grain of salt from that standpoint alone.

There were not many heavy drinkers in the study. So data on that population was not much. However, we already know that heavy drinking affects the brain adversely. That makes that piece of it less relevant.

They did not follow MRI’s over time to look for changes. Therefore, the changes might have been due to variables other than alcohol.

Despite those limitations, they did find some interesting things. The first was that any amount of alcohol consumption tended to produce abnormalities in the gray matter of the brain. That is the area associated with memory. That raised a question about whether this could be a contributor to later onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

They also found that individuals with untreated hypertension showed more of these findings. This suggests that anyone with an appreciable level of alcohol consumption needs to keep their blood pressure under control.

They found that individuals who were obese showed more of these findings. Therefore people with a high BMI should control their drinking more. That could be a problem for beer drinkers. Many of their calories come from the beer that they drink. Perhaps cutting back on beer would help both weight and brain.

Binge drinkers showed greater damage than other individuals. That should not really be a surprise. Logic would tell you if you drink too much there will be some kind of damage.

There seemed to be no difference in the type of alcoholic beverage used. It did not matter if it was wine, beer or liquor. That lends a question to the one glass of wine with dinner.

Their conclusion was that the current recommendations for alcohol in moderation should be reviewed. However, due to the limitations in the study, it is not time to stop drinking.

That should be true if you are overweight. That should be true if you have untreated hypertension. That should be true if you are noticing memory issues as you age. Binge drinking is always a bad idea anyway.

In the meantime, if you have no risk factors you might want to continue your glass of wine with dinner.

COVID update

Total number of new cases continues to decrease. Nationally the weekly total has dropped from 180,000 to 148,000. In Sussex County the weekly totals have from 167 last week to 122 this week.

To this point 91 percent of high risk individuals 65 and older in Delaware have received at least one dose.

The current drop in cases has led to a false sense of security in unvaccinated individuals. They think there is less of a chance of getting infected because of that decrease. The statistics show otherwise. Unvaccinated individuals are now the only ones who can catch the virus.

While total overall infections are less, infection rates in unvaccinated individuals are not. They are getting infections at the same rate that the nation was getting them during the January surge. That simply means that we have not yet reached herd immunity.

Hand washing precautions protect against COVID-19 and other viruses. So I was surprised when I developed a fever, headache and shaking chills last week. I was further surprised when it lasted six days. COVID and other lab tests were negative. Then on the seventh day I found the wood tick causing my Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Seaford will be holding another COVID vaccine clinic in conjunction with Tidal Health. Pfizer vaccine will be used. Therefore, individuals 12 years of age and above are eligible. The two dose clinic dates will be Sunday, June 20 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then Sunday, July 11 for the second dose.

For further information or to register for the event call 410-912-6968.