Drinking protects your brain

A new study has found evidence that drinking protects your brain as you age.

Light to moderate drinking may preserve brain function in older people.

This is according to a new study from the University of Georgia that looked at the link between booze consumption and changes in cognitive function over time among middle-aged and older adults in the U.S.

“We know there are some older people who believe that drinking a little wine every day could maintain a good cognitive condition,” said lead author Ruiyuan Zhang, a doctoral student at UGA’s College of Public Health. “We wanted to know if drinking a small amount of alcohol actually correlates with a good cognitive function, or is it just a kind of survivor bias.”

Zhang and his team tracked cognition performance over 10 years using participant data from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study.

19,887 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 overall mental status, word recall, and vocabulary.

The researchers found that people who had a drink or two a day performed better on cognitive tests over time compared with non-drinkers. This was true after controlling for other factors known to impact cognition such as age, smoking or education level.

For the study “light to moderate drinking” was defined as fewer than eight drinks per week for women and 15 drinks or fewer per week for men. The optimal amount of drinks per week was found to be between 10 and 14 drinks. That does not mean those who drink less should start indulging more, says Ruiyuan “Party Pooper” Zhang.

“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 research brief notes that regular, moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to promote heart health and that there is evidence for a similar protective benefit for brain health. It does not note that several other studies have found that even small amounts of alcohol will kill you, which we appreciate, because we’ll take our good news where we can get it. Cheers.

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