A couple of alcoholic drinks can help clear the brain of toxins, new research finds.
Low levels of alcohol — the equivalent of around 2.5 standard drinks per day — may help to remove waste linked to Alzheimer’s disease and reduce inflammation in the brain.
Dr Maiken Nedergaard, who led the study, said:
“Prolonged intake of excessive amounts of ethanol is known to have adverse effects on the central nervous system.
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.”
The study helps support the view of some research that suggests low levels of alcohol intake can be beneficial.
The new study gave varying amounts of alcohol to mice and looked at the effect on their brains.
Those given high levels of alcohol over a long period showed increasing levels of damaging inflammation.
They also had worse cognitive and motor performance.
In the mice given low doses — equivalent to 2.5 standard drinks per day — the brain was more efficient at removing waste than those not exposed to alcohol.
The mice on low doses of alcohol also showed no differences in cognitive or motor performance with those given no alcohol.
Dr Nedergaard said:
“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.
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.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Lundgaard et al., 2018).