Moderate Drinking May Improve Cognitive Health for Older Adults, Study Says

“A new study found low to moderate drinking may improve cognitive function for White middle-aged or older adults,” reports CNN: The findings support prior research which found that, generally, one standard drink a day for women and two a day for men — which is the US guidance — appears to offer some cognitive benefits… “There is now a lot of observational evidence showing that light to moderate alcohol drinking is associated with better cognitive function and a lower risk of dementia compared with alcohol abstaining,” said senior principal research scientist Kaarin Anstey, a director of the NHMRC Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration in Australia, who was not involved in the study…

The new study, published Monday in JAMA Network Open, analyzed data on nearly 20,000 participants from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal panel study that surveys a representative sample of Americans on a variety of health issues. Study participants, who were predominately white, female and a mean age of 62, were given cognitive tests starting in 1996 through 2008, and were surveyed every other year for approximately nine years. When compared with those who said they never drank, low to moderate drinking was associated with significantly higher cognition scores for mental status, word recall and vocabulary over time, as well as with lower rates of decline in each of those areas.

But before you get too excited, CNN has a “However…” paragraph:
However, a major global study released last year found that no amount of liquor, wine or beer is safe for your overall health. It found that alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide in 2016, accounting for nearly one in 10 deaths… “What we know for sure is that drinking too much alcohol definitely harms the brain in a major way. What is less clear is whether or not low to moderate intake may be protective in certain people, or if total abstinence is the most sound advice,” said neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, founder of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Based on conflicting studies, I don’t think at this time we can know for sure whether none versus low to moderate consumption is best in each individual person…”