Low levels of alcohol help the brain to clear away toxins – including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease

A few glasses of wine after a busy day at work can not only clear the mind, but also clean it, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Centre have found that low levels of alcohol help the brain to clear away toxins – including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Maiken Nedergaard, lead author of the study, said: “Prolonged intake of excessive amounts of ethanol is known to have adverse effects on the central nervous system.

“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 researchers focused on the glymphatic system – the brain’s unique cleaning process, in which cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) flushes waste away from the brain.

In the study, which was performed on mice, the researchers looked at how the glymphatic system changed in response to alcohol.

When mice were exposed to high levels of alcohol, their brains showed more inflammation and their glymphatic system was inefficient.
But when mice were exposed to low levels of alcohol – the equivalent of 2.5 drinks per day – their brains showed less inflammation, and their glymphatic system was more efficient at removing waste.

Dr Nedergaard said: “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.”