Low levels of wine good for the brain, insist Rochester researchers

After a busy day, a couple of glasses of wine can help clear the mind, shows new research by the team of researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The study published in the journal Scientific Reports shows that low levels of alcohol consumption help to stem inflammation and help 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, 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 furthers what earlier research had shown -- limited doses of wine does good for the overall health, while excessive consumption of alcohol is certainly a health hazard. Many other studies have also linked lower levels of drinking to reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as a number of cancers.

Nedergaard's present research focused on the glymphatic system, the brain's unique cleaning process that was first described by Nedergaard and her colleagues in 2012. They showed then how the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), when pumped into brain, helps to flush away waste, including the proteins beta amyloid and tau that are associated with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The current 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 tests on mice looked at the impact of chronic alcohol exposure that showed high levels of a molecular marker for inflammation, in astrocytes cells which regulate the glymphatic system in brain and result in impairment of cognitive and motor skills.

"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. "Specifically, low doses of alcohol appear to improve overall brain health."