Cheers! A little wine ‘cleans the mind’, researchers find

New study reports low levels of alcohol flush out brain toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer’s

There is great news for wine lovers everywhere as the weekend starts with a piece of fresh research indicating a couple of glasses of vino at the end of a busy day will not only relax the mind but clean it too.

The new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that low levels of alcohol flush the brain of toxins - including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

While alcohol can damp down inflammation and help clear the brain, the news is not entirely good for anyone fond of a drop too much as the same study shows that excessive amounts of consumption can have quite the opposite effect on the brain.

"Prolonged intake of excessive amounts of ethanol is known to have adverse effects on the central nervous system," said Maiken Nedergaard, the co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the study.


“However, 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.”

Ms Nedergaard’s research focuses on the glymphatic system, the brain’s unique cleaning process first described by her and fellow researchers in 2012.

The earlier study showed how cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is pumped into brain tissue and flushes away waste, including proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The new study, which was conducted in mice, looked at the impact of both acute and chronic alcohol exposure.

When the brains of animals exposed to high levels of alcohol over a long period of time were studied, researchers observed high levels of a molecular marker for inflammation. They also noted impairment of the animal’s cognitive abilities and motor skills.

However, animals exposed to low levels of alcohol consumption - which the researchers said was the equivalent of around 2.5 drinks per day - showed less brain inflammation and their glymphatic system was more efficient in moving CSF through the brain and removing waste when compared to control mice not exposed to alcohol.

The low-dose animals’ performance in the cognitive and motor tests was identical to the controls who were not given a tipple.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast