A lit­tle al­co­hol is good for you, US study finds

Two drinks a day can stave off mental de­cline and im­prove mem­ory skills, ac­cord­ing to US re­search

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Lizzie Roberts

Hav­ing two al­co­holic drinks a day may slow mental de­cline and pre­serve brain func­tion, ac­cord­ing to US re­search. Dr Chang­wei Li from the Univer­sity of Georgia said re­sults from pre­vi­ous stud­ies in­ves­ti­gat­ing links be­tween mental health and mod­er­ate drink­ing have been mixed. But this new study has iden­ti­fied a “U-shaped re­la­tion­ship” be­tween al­co­hol and cog­ni­tive func­tion scores, where a lit­tle pro­vided ben­e­fits but too much had the re­verse ef­fect.

HAV­ING two al­co­holic drinks a day may slow mental de­cline and pre­serve brain func­tion, ac­cord­ing to a US study.

Dr Chang­wei Li, an epi­demi­ol­o­gist at the Univer­sity of Georgia (UGA), said re­sults from pre­vi­ous stud­ies in­ves­ti­gat­ing links be­tween mental health and mod­er­ate drink­ing have been mixed. But this new study has iden­ti­fied a “U-shaped re­la­tion­ship” be­tween al­co­hol and cog­ni­tive func­tion scores, where a lit­tle pro­vided ben­e­fits but too much had the re­verse ef­fect.

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

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

The re­searchers found that peo­ple who en­joyed a reg­u­lar drink − up to two a day − were a third less likely to have poor cog­ni­tive func­tion com­pared to tee­to­tallers.

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

Even when con­trol­ling for other fac­tors known to af­fect brain func­tion, such as age, smok­ing or ed­u­ca­tion level, the re­searchers said they saw a pat­tern of light drink­ing as­so­ci­ated with high cog­ni­tive tra­jec­to­ries.

The re­sults also showed the as­so­ci­a­tion was stronger among white par­tic­i­pants, which Ruiyuan Zhang, lead au­thor and a doc­toral stu­dent at UGA’S Col­lege of Pub­lic Health, said calls for fur­ther ex­plo­ration into the mech­a­nisms of al­co­hol’s ef­fect on the brain.

Light to mod­er­ate drink­ing was de­fined as fewer than eight drinks per week for women and 15 drinks or fewer among men. And the op­ti­mal in­take was ten to 14 drinks per week, but Mr Zhang said the find­ings do not mean those who drink less should in­crease their in­take. “It is hard to say this ef­fect is causal,” he said.

“So, if some peo­ple don’t drink al­co­holic bev­er­ages, this study does not en­cour­age them to drink to pre­vent cog­ni­tive func­tion de­cline.”

The re­searchers from UGA are the first to track al­co­hol con­sump­tion ef­fects on cog­ni­tion per­for­mance over 10 years, us­ing data from a na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple from the Health and Re­tire­ment Study in the US.

A to­tal of 19,887 mid­dle-aged and older adults com­pleted sur­veys ev­ery two years about their health and life­style, in­clud­ing ques­tions on drink­ing habits, the JAMA open ac­cess jour­nal re­ported.

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

Th­ese in­cluded be­ing read a list of 10 words and then hav­ing to re­mem­ber them im­me­di­ately, or five min­utes later.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown mod­er­ate drink­ing has been found to in­crease a pro­tein known as the brain-de­rived neu­rotrophic factor, which helps the brain to de­velop new cells and strengthen ex­ist­ing ones.

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