We’re well into the silly season now and for many, the champagne is flowing. So, in that spirit, here’s a bit of an odd question: Is champagne good for health?
Admittedly, most of us don’t drink champagne because of health benefits.
In fact, we tend to drink it regardless of how it is going to make us feel the next morning.
But, there has been some interesting research that suggests that champagne may well help to improve memory.
You might have heard about this research before because it’s been very popular right now. And, that just makes sense. The idea that champagne improves memory is certainly appealing and very interesting.
The question is, does it?
Well… the short answer is maybe, but probably not.
To explain, let’s take a look at the study.
The Study Itself
The most basic claim that people make about the study is that drinking as much as three glasses of champagne a day can improve memory. Some people also claim that it can help to protect against dementia and other memory loss disorders.
It sounds fantastic, but the evidence in the study isn’t nearly as good as it sounds.
For one thing, the study was conducted in animals.
Specifically, the authors looked at 24 rats.
The rats were broken down into three groups of 8 (which is a tiny sample size, by the way).
Over a period of six weeks, one group was given champagne, another group was given a different alcoholic drink and the third group was given a non-alcoholic drink.
Before and after the experiment, the rats were made to run a maze.
And yes, the rats that had champagne did marginally better in the maze compared to the others.
Specifically, 5 rats from the champagne group completed the maze, while an average of 4 from the other groups did.
And that is the big outcome of the study.
The outcome specifically relates to spatial memory, as that is what rats use to solve a maze.
So, it doesn’t even directly relate to dementia or to general memory loss.
Realistically, you can’t even study memory loss in research like this, because you would want to be tracking memory loss and consumption of champagne over time – which is certainly not what happened here.
The study did also consider some other areas.
For example, a stationary beam was used to look at motor skills, but there was no significant difference between the groups.
The authors also conducted a number of biochemical tests that looked at the compounds present in the brains of the different groups of rats. Some of those outcomes did support the idea that the champagne could cause changes to the brain and potentially to spatial memory.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The study itself isn’t a bad study. In fact, it does a good job of testing exactly what it was designed to test.
For example, one of the main conclusions of the study was that champagne had the ability to influence brain function.
The interesting thing about this outcome is that champagne doesn’t contain flavonoids.
This means that smaller phenolic compounds in champagne were responsible for the change in brain function.
That outcome is actually very relevant because those smaller compounds were previously thought to have no biological activity.
That is an important outcome and it may help to guide future research.
But, there are a number of reasons why the study outcomes don’t apply to humans.
For one thing, it was an animal study.
Animal studies are sometimes used as a way to approximate what would happen in humans, but they are always a rough approximation.
The information can be valuable when research into humans isn’t possible, but honestly, that isn’t the case here.
Additionally, the study involved a memory challenge that was different to what most humans would experience.
So, it is difficult to know whether the improvements in spatial memory would even be the same for humans. You can find also find out more about the limitations of animal studies in a post at Simply Psychology.
Additionally, the study had a pretty small sample size. After all, there were just 8 mice in each group.
A small sample size is an issue in any research study.
Large sample sizes help researchers know what effects are real, and what ones are just a result of chance. With a small sample size, it is much harder to know when an effect is real.
That’s especially true for this study because the number of mice on champagne that completed the maze was 5, versus an average of 4 for the other groups.
That really isn’t much of a difference.
In fact, none of the outcomes in the study were particularly profound.
The Recent Hype
This study is a really good example of how people can take an idea and run with it.
Reports of this study have been really common on social media lately, and there have been a number of articles that reinforce the potential for champagne to help with memory.
Here’s one example:
With the large number of shares that this article alone has had – it’s not surprising that this concept is trending.
Here’s another example:
Yet, most people who read or write about this never stop to read the actual study.
For one thing, the study was published in 2013.
Based on the nature of the study, it probably wasn’t a big deal at the time – but people certainly seem to be making a big deal of it now.
At the end of the day, the study doesn’t say much of anything, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at all of the hype.
This study and its hype is one really good reason to always look at the science behind any health claim.
Often, the people writing articles on research just rely on what other people say, and never stop to wonder what the research itself actually involves.
At the End of the Day
At the beginning of this post I asked, is champagne good for health?
This study doesn’t actually help to answer the question at all.
There is nothing about the study that suggests that champagne could help human health or memory.
We won’t know whether there is a connection between champagne and memory until research on the topic is done on humans.
Honestly though, I doubt there is much of a connection.
Some of the compounds in champagne might be significant for brain function, but that is true for a range of other things.
The presence of those compounds certainly doesn’t mean that there will be any significant effect on the human brain.
Realistically, I think that people just want champagne to be healthy.
After all, it would be pretty nice if a holiday treat actually turned out to be good for us. But, as the site Health Foodie points out, good and bad is an oversimplification when it comes to food anyway. And, for most of the population, a glass of champagne now and then isn’t going to have any significant impact one way or the other.