Are low levels of alcohol good for the brain?

New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests that a glass of wine after work may be good for your brain

Are low levels of alcohol good for the brain?

Research on alcohol and the brain has shown clearly that chronic, heavy drinking is a very dangerous activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), long-term heavy alcohol use has been linked to conditions ranging from cancer to heart disease to dementia.

However, it's well known that a glass of wine can help clear your mind and help you relax after a busy day. Now, research from the University of Rochester Medical Center shows it also reduces inflammation and helps the brain clear away toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer's disease.

"Prolonged intake of excessive amounts of ethanol is known to have adverse effects on the central nervous system", said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. "However, in this study we have shown for the first time that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health, namely it improves the brain's ability to remove waste".

"In this study we have shown for the first time that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health, namely it improves the brain's ability to remove waste"

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, focuses on the glymphatic system, which is the brain's cleaning process. When mice were exposed to low levels of alcohol consumption, comparable to two-and-a-half drinks per day, they showed less inflammation in their brains and a more efficient waste removal process, compared to mice that were not exposed to alcohol.

In addition, their brains were more efficient at removing waste via the glymphatic system. The study found the process was effective in eliminating the toxic proteins beta amyloid and tau from the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

"The data on the effects of alcohol on the glymphatic system seemingly matches the J-shaped model relating to the dose effects of alcohol on general health and mortality, whereby low doses of alcohol are beneficial, while excessive consumption is detrimental to overall health", says Nedergaard. "Studies have shown that low-to-moderate alcohol intake is associated with a lesser risk of dementia, while heavy drinking for many years confers an increased risk of cognitive decline. This study may help explain why this occurs. Specifically, low doses of alcohol appear to improve overall brain health."

"Studies have shown that low-to-moderate alcohol intake is associated with a lesser risk of dementia, while heavy drinking for many years confers an increased risk of cognitive decline".

However, the guidelines warn, many mixed drinks and beer varieties contain more alcohol than the standard used in public health research, so the amount of actual beverage allowed each day may be disappointingly small; meaning one or two drinks per day, or only one, depending on body size and alcohol tolerance. Drinking more than that can increase the risk of health problems including high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, and breast cancer.

 

Latin American Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez

Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda
 

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