In wine, there's health: Low levels of alcohol good for the brain

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, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports, 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."

The 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 cancers.

Nedergaard's 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.

The 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.

Animals 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.

"The 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 health."

Iben Lundgaard, Wei Wang, Allison Eberhardt, Hanna Sophia Vinitsky, Benjamin Cameron Reeves, Sisi Peng, Nanhong Lou, Rashad Hussain, Maiken Nedergaard.
Beneficial effects of low alcohol exposure, but adverse effects of high alcohol intake on glymphatic function.
Scientific Reportsvolume 8, Article number: 2246 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-20424-y.

Most Popular Now

In wine, there's health: Low levels of alcohol goo…

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, which appe...

Sanofi to acquire Ablynx for €3.9 Billion

Sanofi and Ablynx, a biopharmaceutical company engaged in the discovery and development of Nanobodies®, entered into a definitive agreement under which Sanofi will offer ...

Repurposed drug found to be effective against Zika…

In both cell cultures and mouse models, a drug used to treat Hepatitis C effectively protected and rescued neural cells infected by the Zika virus - and blocked transmiss...

Interim publications of randomized trials make new…

Early results from randomized trials are sometimes published before the trial is completed. The results of such interim publications may generate a great deal of interest...

Drug trial protocol redactions by industry sponsor…

New research published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine exposes the extent of redactions in protocols for industry-sponsored randomised drug trials. Trial ...

Advanced Accelerator Applications receives FDA ap…

Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) announced that Advanced Accelerator Applications, a subsidiary of Novartis Groupe S.A., has received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approva...

Blood vessel-on-a-chips show anti-cancer drug effe…

Researchers at the Institute of Industrial Science (IIS), the University of Tokyo, CNRS and INSERM, report a new organ-on-a-chip technology for the study of blood vessel ...

Guidelines extended to improve the use of feedback…

Researchers have recommended changes to international guidelines used in the development of clinical trials in an effort to gain information about the impact of the treat...

Brilinta significantly reduces CV events and coron…

AstraZeneca today announced results from a new sub-analysis of the Phase III PEGASUS-TIMI 54 trial, demonstrating a risk reduction of 19% in MACE (the composite of CV dea...

Roche reports good results in 2017

In 2017, Group sales rose 5% to CHF 53.3 billion. Core operating profit grew 3% and Core EPS increased 5%, reflecting the good underlying business performance. On an IFRS...

FDA approves new treatment for certain digestive t…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate) for the treatment of a type of cancer that affects the pancreas or gastrointesti...

How old antibiotic compounds could become tomorrow…

As the fight against drug-resistant infections continues, University of Leeds scientists are looking back at previously discarded chemical compounds, to see if any could ...

Pharmaceutical Companies

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Z ]