Small Doses of Alcohol for Brain Health?

By Akari Miki

            The strong association between excessive drinking of alcohol and cognitive decline is well known. Paradoxically, however, many studies have also documented that small intakes of alcohol could potentially improve brain health. Recent research on mice led by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center supports this hypothesis. They focused on the glymphatic system, which cleans the brain by pumping cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) into the tissue and washing away waste, especially proteins related to dementia such as beta amyloid and tau. The experiment subjected one group of mice to high levels of alcohol consumption, another group to low levels, and a control group to none. In the brains of the high level group, the scientists observed high levels of inflammation and decreased function in astrocytes, which play an important role in controlling the glymphatic system. In the low level group, the brains had less inflammation, and the glymphatic system cleaned the brain more efficiently compared to those of both the high level group and control group. The human equivalent of the experimental treatment of the low level group is about 2.5 drinks per day. Overall, the results of this experiment could explain why small consumption of alcohol has been associated with improved brain health in humans.


University of Rochester Medical Center. (2018, February 2). Low levels of alcohol good for the brain, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 11, 2018 from