A small amount of alcohol a day is good for you, study reveals

Marie Claire Dorking
·3-min read
New research has revealed drinking moderately could be good for brain function. (Getty Images)
New research has revealed drinking moderately could be good for brain function. (Getty Images)

Good news for those of us who credit a daily glass or two of wine for helping us get through lockdown.

New research has suggested there are further benefits to enjoying a couple of alcoholic drinks a night to just saving your sanity.

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, found that having two alcoholic drinks a day could slow mental decline and preserve brain function.

Researchers from the University of Georgia (UGA) analysed the link between alcohol consumption and changes in brain function over time among 19,887 middle-aged and older adults.

The results revealed that those who enjoyed a regular drink (up to 8 per week for women and up to 15 per week for men) were a third less likely to have decreased cognitive function compared to teetotallers.

Read more: How to drink mindfully during coronavirus lockdown

This includes learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, decision making and attention.

On average, the low to moderate drinkers had 29% less chance of having a lower mental capacity compared to people who never drink.

Study authors identified the optimal alcoholic intake was 10 to 14 drinks per week.

The findings were similar to previous findings from The Rancho Bernardo Study in southern California which found that moderate, regular alcohol drinking was associated with better cognitive function compared with never drinking among older adults with a mean age of 73.2 years.

The most recent study charted alcohol consumption effects on cognition performance over 10 years, using participant data from a nationally representative sample from the Health and Retirement Study in the US.

Participants completed surveys every two years about their health and lifestyle, including questions on drinking habits.

They also had their cognitive function measured in a series of tests looking at their overall mental status, word recall, and vocabulary.

Read more: Men should stick to just one alcoholic drink a day, say new guidelines

One or two alcoholic drinks a night could have health benefits. (Getty Images)
One or two alcoholic drinks a night could have health benefits. (Getty Images)

But before you pour yourself another large rose Dr Changwei Li, co-author of the paper and epidemiologist at UGA, warned that the study identified a “U-shaped relationship” between alcohol and cognitive function scores.

While low to moderate drinking provided benefits too much had the reverse effect.

“Our study suggested low to moderate drinking was associated with better total cognitive function and better word recall, mental status and vocabulary,” Dr Li explains.

“Low to moderate alcohol use was also associated with slower rates of cognitive decline.”

Read more: Former alcoholic who nearly died from liver damage credits turning vegan for saving his life

Study authors did note some limitations of the study, particularly that the drinking data was self-reported, meaning participants may not have been perfectly accurate about how much they typically drink.

And though the findings are encouraging they don’t necessarily mean we can free pour the drinks every night. There is plenty of research showing too much alcohol is not particularly good for health.

So if you have been turning to the booze to get you through these troubling times, just make sure you stick to the UK’s daily guidance.

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