We've all heard the myths of how great red wine is for your body, and all had that one friend tell us, "You need a drink," as a reaction to every situation in your life. But does alcohol help you more than it harms you?
A new study in The Journal of the American Medical Associationfinds that light drinking may actually be good for you, and may help in preserving brain function in old age.
The study on neurology called "Association of Low to Moderate Alcohol Drinking With Cognitive Functions From Middle to Older Age Among US Adults," conducted by doctoral students at The University of Georgia, was published in JAMA's Network Open.
The study, which was conduced on 19,887 participants from the Health and Retirement Study, with an average follow-up of 9.1 years. When the results were compared between never drinking, low to moderate drinking was associated with significantly better trajectories of higher cognition scores for mental status, word recall, and vocabulary and with lower rates of decline in each of these cognition domains.
The results of the study found that current low to moderate alcohol consumption among middle-aged or older adults may be associated with better total cognitive function.
"We know there are some older people who believe that drinking a little wine everyday could maintain a good cognitive condition," said lead author Ruiyuan Zhang, a doctoral student at UGA's College of Public Health, reports Science Daily.
Zhang and his colleagues looked at how the participants performed on cognitive tests over the course of the study and categorized their performance as high or low trajectories, which indicated whether their cognitive function remained high over time, or began declining. m
Compared to non-drinkers, they found that those who had a drink or two a day tended to perform better on cognitive tests over time.
Even accounting for other important factors known to impact cognition such as age, smoking or education level, as control groups, they saw a pattern of light drinking associated with high cognitive trajectories.
The optimal amount of drinks per week was between 10 to 14 drinks, found the study. (This does not mean that people who drink lesser should start drinking more.)
Zhang also clarified that, "This study does not encourage them to drink to prevent cognitive function decline."