You may already know that sipping on a glass of red wine is good for your health, but did you know that you can reap the health benefits without even drinking it? In a preliminary study published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journals, researchers found that sommeliers have a decreased chance of developing Alzheimer's and Parkinson's in comparison to those that don't spend their livelihood smelling wine. Profession change anyone?
In the study, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas examined brain scans of 13 master sommeliers and 13 individuals who don't spend all day examining the nuances of wine. The participants were asked to take a wine knowledge test which involved smelling jars of wine and non-wine. What they found was that the olfactory area of the brain - especially in memory - was greater in volume in master sommeliers. Furthermore, they found that the increased thickness was related to experience. Meaning, the more wine they smelled, the larger the olfactory area of the brain.
Considering master sommeliers are experts in wine who have dedicated years of their life to become one - there are only 219 in the world - it makes sense that their olfactory memory regions would be greater in size. They rely heavily on their senses as well as memory to recall important facts that would make an amateur wine snob jealous.
So what does all this have to do with preventing diseases such as Alzheimer's? The areas of the brain that are sensitive to aging and neurological disease were enlarged in the master sommeliers. It's particularly interesting because the sommeliers were an older group compared to a younger control group.
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That means, the more you smell wine, the more you improve your memory despite age. The work, however, is not over.
"Future research into therapeutic sensory-cognitive training in individuals at risk from neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, which impact the same regions of the limbic system and entorhinal cortex, might provide an important clinical application of these results."