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A Little Alcohol Is Good For 'Cleaning' The Brain: Study

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What happens to your body when you cut out alcohol

A new study shows that having a glass of wine or even a bottle of beer after a busy day isn't just relaxing but could also benefit the cleaning process of the brain. While a low alcohol consumption level is beneficial to brain health, high levels of alcohol consumption may result in the opposite.

The Brain's Cleaning Process

There is good news for those who enjoy having a little alcohol because a new study shows that low alcohol consumption levels can actually benefit brain health, specifically when it comes to removing waste. Researchers of the study focused on the glymphatic system, or the brain's cleaning process, wherein cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) flushes out harmful waste, including beta amyloid and tau proteins, which are linked to Alzheimer's disease, other forms of dementia, and even Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

In previous studies, researchers have found that the glymphatic system is actually more active while people are asleep, is improved with exercise, and may be damaged by stroke or trauma. In the current study, researchers found that consuming low levels of alcohol evidently helps and improves the brain's capability to remove waste.

Two And A Half Drinks Per Day

In order to collect data, researchers observed mice that were exposed to an equivalent of two and a half drinks per day and mice that were exposed to high levels of alcohol over a long period. What they found was that the mice that were exposed from low to moderate amounts of alcohol exhibited less brain inflammation and amazingly had more effective glymphatic systems compared to the mice that were not exposed to alcohol at all.

Conversely, the mice that were exposed to high levels of alcohol exhibited high molecular markers of inflammation in the cells that are key to the glymphatic system and also displayed impairments in cognitive and motor skills.

Alcohol And Dementia Risk

There is already an increasing body of literature that points to the benefits of alcohol consumption to overall health. In particular, low alcohol consumption has previously been linked to reduced cardiovascular disease and cancer risks, whereas high alcohol consumption has been linked to cancer risk, cognitive decline, and even hippocampal atrophy, a type of brain damage.

According to Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc. of the University of Rochester Medical Center, the lead author of the study, the results of their study might help explain why low to moderate alcohol consumption is linked with decreased dementia risk while chronic heavy drinking is linked with an increased risk in cognitive decline.

The paper is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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