Need another reason to validate that glass of wine before bed or bottle of beer on Super Bowl Sunday? Science is on your side.
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that low levels of alcohol consumption can actually lower inflammation in the brain and help it clear away toxins, including those linked to serious diseases like Alzheimer’s.
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 who were not exposed to alcohol.
“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,” says Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the study. “This study may help explain why this occurs.
“Specifically, low doses of alcohol appear to improve overall brain health.”
The University of Rochester’s new research isn’t the first to find health benefits associated with low levels of alcohol.
Consuming alcohol in moderation can also lower mortality risks from all causes, including cardiovascular disease, a study published in 2017 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found.
Moderate drinking was also linked to a lower risk of some heart conditions — like stroke, heart attack and heart failure — in another study published in 2017 in BMJ.
But before you start popping bottles in hopes of being healthier, remember that there are other ways to reap the health benefits a little drinking might be able to provide.
When it comes to the brain, another study from the University of Rochester found that its ability to clear out waste and toxins is more active while asleep (so get your rest) and also improves with exercise.
While drinking red wine in moderation is often touted as being healthy for the heart, possibly due to an ingredient called resveratrol, research is conflicted. And while the American Heart Association notes that “the best-known effect of alcohol is a small increase in HDL cholesterol,” it points out regular physical activity is an effective way to get that boost.
The association does not recommend drinking alcohol to gain potential health benefits, and instead, advises that if you do drink alcohol, do so in moderation, meaning one or two drinks per day for men and one for women. Drinking more than that can increase the risk of health problems including high blood pressure, obesity, stroke and breast cancer.