Alcohol is Your Brain’s Friend, and Enemy

By | January 22, 2014

alcohol-brain-healthTake a pass on that third glass of wine (or beer, or liquor) if you want to keep your memory and cognitive health in good shape as you age into your golden years.

That’s the message from a study on alcohol consumption and brain health, published in the journal Neurology.

The study tracked over 7,000 people (average age 56) for a total of 10 years, recording average alcohol consumption for each subject, along with performance on memory and cognitive tests that were administered during the study period.

Researchers divided participants into two groups: Light-Moderate drinkers and Heavy drinkers.

Here’s the important part you need to know: Light-Moderate drinkers consumed 20 grams or less of pure alcohol on a daily basis, equivalent to about 8oz/235ml of wine, or 20oz/585ml of beer – typically a bit less than two drinks a day.

Heavy drinkers were categorized as consuming at least 36 grams of pure alcohol each day – 3.5 or 4 drinks (or more) every day.

For men in the study, heavy drinkers scored substantially worse on the memory and cognitive health tests during the research period.

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An interesting gender difference also appeared in this study: women who abstained from drinking any alcohol showed memory and cognitive decline on test sores compared to women who drank a very light amount of alcohol (about half a glass of wine or beer each day).

This gender difference is probably related to the cardiovascular benefits women enjoy from light alcohol consumption – see this article on how light alcohol use can reduce stroke risk.

Bottom line: Moderation is a virtue, when it comes to alcohol and your brain health!