The effects of alcohol on brain health have long been debated and studied, especially when it comes to how they impact the risk of Alzheimer’s. Some dementia experts believe that a glass of red wine is beneficial in warding off Alzheimer’s; other studies point to alcohol in any amount as dangerous for the brain.
A study from Oxford University is throwing their research into the ring. According to data from over 13,300 men and women, excessive alcohol could be a serious risk to cognitive health, especially after middle age.
Researchers pulled participants from a large database called the U.K. Biobank, to which volunteers report medical data, including how often they drink alcohol. People enrolled in this study reported drinking once or more per week. They were given reaction-time tests using a computer program over five years. Researchers found that drinking up to 10 grams of alcohol per day (a glass of wine is about 16 grams, for reference) was associated with an improved reaction time, but anything more the 10 grams per day was related to a decline in reaction time. “As individuals age, this deleterious effect of alcohol on cognitive performance became more pronounced,” the researchers reported.
The current recommendation in the U.K. for alcohol consumption is no more than 16 grams per day; the U.S. recommends no more than one drink for women and two for men. These findings suggest that 10 grams per day—the equivalent of a light beer or a half glass of wine—would be a more prudent recommendation, especially for older adults. “There is little question that alcohol is neurotoxic and that no cognitive benefit derives from high consumption levels,” the researchers wrote. “The findings reported here indicate that harm becomes apparent at levels of alcohol consumption lower than previously reported.”
Read the full study here.