Beer Drinking Associates with Lower Burden of Amyloid Beta Aggregation in the Brain: Helsinki Sudden Death Series

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2016 Jul;40(7):1473-8. doi: 10.1111/acer.13102. Epub 2016 May 24.


Background: Controversy surrounds the effect of alcohol consumption on the development of dementia and cognitive impairment. We investigated the association between consumption of different alcoholic beverages and β-amyloid (Aβ) aggregation in the brain, 1 of the neuropathological lesions of Alzheimer's disease.

Methods: In total, 125 males of the Helsinki Sudden Death autopsy Series were included with an age range at death 35 to 70 years. The consumption of alcohol, Aβ aggregation in the brain, and Apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype were assessed. Relatives answered a questionnaire to gather alcohol consumption history, and Aβ was visualized by implementing immunohistochemical staining of brain sections. Aβ immunoreactivity (IR) was assessed in a dichotomized (yes/no) fashion and as a stained area fraction (%). APOE genotype was assessed in DNA extracted from paraffin-embedded cardiac muscle samples.

Results: Increased age (p = 0.001; odds ratio [OR] = 1.09, confidence interval [CI] = 1.04 to 1.15) was associated with higher prevalence of Aβ-IR. Beer drinking decreased (p = 0.024; OR = 0.35, CI = 0.14 to 0.87) the prevalence of Aβ-IR and was associated with a significantly lower extent of Aβ-IR (p = 0.022). The amount of alcohol consumed was not linked with Aβ aggregation and neither was spirit nor wine consumption.

Conclusions: Beer consumption may protect against Aβ aggregation in brain. Further studies are necessary to fully understand the effects of alcohol on Aβ pathology seen in brain tissue.

Keywords: Alcohol Consumption; Amyloid Beta Aggregation; Beer; Spirits; Wine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics
  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / drug effects*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Autopsy
  • Beer*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Death, Sudden / epidemiology
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Apolipoproteins E