As we get older, it’s wise to pay more attention to our brain health if we want to avoid cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s dementia. Research has shown that adopting certain habits in our diet and lifestyle can dramatically increase — or decrease — our chances for developing an age-related brain condition. And recently, the science suggests that light drinking could help delay brain aging and slow down cognitive decline.
Drinking and Brain Aging
According to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia, drinking alcohol could delay brain aging — but only if you do it the right way.
The researchers aimed to study the link between alcohol consumption and changes in cognitive function over time among a population of middle-aged and older adults in the US. To do so, 19,887 participants were recruited and asked to complete surveys about their health and lifestyle every two years. They were asked questions about how much alcohol they consumed and how frequently. Any amount fewer than eight drinks per week for women and 15 per week for men was considered as “light to moderate” drinking.
The team also measured cognitive function of the participants using a series of tests looking at their overall mental status, word recall, and vocabulary. These results were used to calculate a total “cognitive score.” The researchers then rated the subjects performance as high or low, meaning that their cognitive function either remained high over time or began to decline.
Compared to the subjects that didn’t drink at all, the researchers found that those who had a drink or two a day performed better on the cognitive tests and showed less signs of cognitive decline as time went along. Other factors like age, education level, and whether or not the person smoked were also taken into account.
How much is too much?
According to this study, light drinking, defined as eight drinks per week for women, was considered the optimal number for healthy brain aging. That’s about one drink per day — and you should definitely aim to space them out!
Given these results, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can forego the Merlot during the week and make up for it on the weekends. Other research suggests that heavy drinking (defined as more than three drinks per day for women) may actually have detrimental effects on the brain. Another study showed that binge drinking in this way not only lead to an earlier onset of dementia and cognitive decline, but it even worsened symptoms!
All this being said, it seems safe that enjoying a glass of wine — or other drink of choice — with dinner may be another (and perhaps, more fun) way to protect your brain as you get older. Cheers to that!