The team from the University of Rochester Medical Center said that this is the first study to show that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health.
They focused their research on the glymphatic system, which is the brain’s unique cleaning process.
That system pumps cerebral spinal fluid into brain tissue and flushes away waste, including the proteins associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
Research on the glymphatic system has shown it is more active while we sleep, can be damaged by stroke and trauma, and improves with exercise.
This research, conducted on mice, looked at the impact of both acute and chronic alcohol exposure.
When the animals were exposed to high levels of alcohol, inflammation in this brain’s system was found while the animal’s cognitive and motor skills worsened.
When they were given low levels of alcohol, however – the equivalent of around 2 1/2 drinks a day – it shows less inflammation in the brain and the glymphatic system was more efficient in removing waste from the brain compared to mice not given alcohol at all.
Lead author of the study, Dr Maiken Nedergaard, said that this study showed that “low doses of alcohol are beneficial, while excessive consumption is detrimental to overall health”.
He added: “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.
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