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Alcohol and Brain Aging


Updated April 28, 2008

For a while now, we have been hearing that drinking moderately can help improve your life expectancy and longevity. It does this by helping to protect your heart. But what if alcohol also protected your brain? Turns out that a moderate amount of daily alcohol does just that. Alcohol can protect your brain, your mental health and your cognitive (thinking) abilities.

Research shows that drinking moderately is better for you than drinking heavily or not drinking at all. Aim for around 2 servings of an alcoholic beverage a night (a serving is one glass of wine, one beer, one shot). Red wine is probably the best choice, as it has properties unrelated to alcohol that help slow aging.

British researchers, whose findings were published in a 2007 issue of the journal Age and Ageing, were interested in exploring whether alcohol consumption improved mental and cognitive health. They examined over 6,000 people over the age of 50. These people were part of a large-scale study on aging. They were asked questions about their alcohol consumption and were grouped into three categories for analysis: consumption of one or fewer drinks per day, 2 or fewer drinks per day and more than two drinks per day. The researchers also examined the participants' cognitive abilities, well-being and signs of depression.

Men and women in the 2 or fewer drinks per day group had better results for cognitive function, fewer signs of depression and a better sense of well-being. So go ahead and have 1 or 2 drinks a day if you want – do it for your heart, and do it for your brain. Remember, however, not to overdo it -- and that alcohol can pack a good amount of calories.

How much of an impact does a glass of red wine have on your waistline? Use Calorie Count to find out the number of calories in this and other alcoholic beverages.


Iain Lang, Robert B. Wallace, Felicia A. Huppert and David Melzer. Moderate alcohol consumption in older adults is associated with better cognition and well-being than abstinence. Age and Ageing 2007 36(3):256-261.

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