While a couple of
glasses of wine can help clear the mind after a busy day, new research shows
that it may actually help clean the mind as well. The new study shows that low
levels of alcohol consumption tamp down inflammation and helps the brain clear
away toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer's disease.
"Prolonged intake of excessive amounts of ethanol is known
to have adverse effects on the central nervous system," said Maiken
Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational
Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead
author of the study. "However, in this study we have shown for the first
time that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health,
namely it improves the brain's ability to remove waste."
finding adds to a growing body of research that point to the health benefits of
low doses of alcohol. While excessive consumption of alcohol is a
well-documented health hazard, many studies have linked lower levels of
drinking with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as a number of
research focuses on the glymphatic system, the brain's unique cleaning process
that was first described by Nedergaard and her colleagues in 2012. They showed
how cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is pumped into brain tissue and flushes away
waste, including the proteins beta amyloid and tau that are associated with
Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Subsequent research has shown
that the glymphatic system is more active while we sleep, can be damaged by
stroke and trauma, and improves with exercise.
new study, which was conducted in mice, looked at the impact of both acute and
chronic alcohol exposure. When they studied the brains of animals exposed to
high levels of alcohol over a long period of time, the researchers observed
high levels of a molecular marker for inflammation, particularly in cells
called astrocytes which are key regulators of the glymphatic system. They also
noted impairment of the animal's cognitive abilities and motor skills.
that were exposed to low levels of alcohol consumption, analogous to
approximately 2 ½ drinks per day, actually showed less inflammation in the
brain and their glymphatic system was more efficient in moving CSF through the
brain and removing waste, compared to control mice who were not exposed to
alcohol. The low dose animals' performance in the cognitive and motor tests was
identical to the controls.
data on the effects of alcohol on the glymphatic system seemingly matches the
J-shaped model relating to the dose effects of alcohol on general health and
mortality, whereby low doses of alcohol are beneficial, while excessive
consumption is detrimental to overall health" said Nedergaard.
"Studies have shown that low-to-moderate alcohol intake is associated with
a lesser risk of dementia, while heavy drinking for many years confers an
increased risk of cognitive decline. This study may help explain why this
occurs. Specifically, low doses of alcohol appear to improve overall brain
Source: University of
Rochester Medical Center / Science Daily