Smelling Your Wine Before You Drink It Might Help Prevent Alzheimer's, Study Says

If smelling lots of wine is good for your brain, should't we be geniuses by now?

Few things are more delicious and soothing at the end of a long day than a glass (or two) of wine. But are you taking time to really slow down and savor the taste, and the smell, of that gorgeous liquid in your glass?

Well, you should. Because not only will sniffing your wine before you drink it help you enjoy it more; smelling the stuff may actually be good for your brain and help prevent Alzheimer's, a new study says.

We should be sniffing our wine a whole lot more often, according to new research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, which specifically studied the changes in the brains of Master Sommeliers. 

The research followed a relatively small sampling of 13 Master Sommeliers and 13 people in unrelated professions, and discovered that the uniquely specialized wine experts appeared to have increased brain volume in areas primarily responsible for olfactory (scent) and memory, as well as those dedicated to sensory stimuli and external cues. Those findings point to a potential decrease in the risk of brain diseases.

“This study suggests there is plasticity in the adult brain enhanced by specialized expertise and training.  These enhanced areas of the brain in Master Sommeliers are also the parts of the brain most often affected in many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” David Poulad, MD, FAANS, a board certified neurosurgeon at IGEA Brain and Spine, told The Feast.

But is smelling wine the key to those sommeliers' enhanced brain function, or are other factors at work too? “I believe the reason sommeliers have improved brain function over the years is because they exercise their memory (sight and smell) skills in their wine tasting,” Dion Metzger, M.D., a board certified psychiatrist, told The Feast.

Moral of the story: Become a sommelier? 

Metzger notes that other skills, like working a crossword puzzle, can have similar benefits: Working brain puzzles "keeps the problem solving and memory gears of the brain moving." He adds, “Just like other body systems, the brain staying active helps to prevent disease. Unfortunately, drinking more wine isn't the answer."

Shoot. As Poulad also notes, “Some people could interpret this study as advocating for drinking more wine, when in reality it is recommending that you learn to become an expert in wine tasting; as a result, that may one day help you combat early onset dementia or neurodegenerative diseases. So, drink responsibly and learn to become a wine connoisseur!” says Poulad.

We're on it.

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