Light to moderate drinking—be it of beer, wine, or spirits—seems to reduce the risk for dementia and cognitive decline, according to a study recently released in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.

A meta-analysis of more than 140 studies dating from 1977 that examined the effects of alcohol on the brain showed that moderate drinking reduced the risk for dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease by 23%. Moderate drinking is defined as no more than 2 drinks a day for a man and 1 drink a day for a woman. However, heavy drinking—more than 3 to 5 drinks per day—was associated with an insignificantly higher cognitive risk for dementia and cognitive impairment.

Co-authors of the study, Edward J Neafsey, PhD and Michael A. Collins, PhD, believe that alcohol may act as a mild stressor for brain cells and “preconditions” them—making them better able to ward off stress. Cells exposed to increased levels of stress, they release protective compounds, preparing them for something stressful that may kill or damage the cells. If doctors are able to understand this protective cell mechanism, it may lead to future treatment to prevent cognitive impairment and dementias.

Physician’s Weekly wants to know…

  • What do you think of these study results—bottoms up?