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Alcohol May Actually Reduce This Health Risk, Study Finds

One or two drinks a day can prevent plaque in the brain that's been linked to this serious disease.

If you believe in everything in moderation, there's good news for you—new evidence shows that moderate amounts of alcohol may actually reduce the risk of dementia. A recent study found that people who have two drinks or less a day could have a lower chance of developing Alzheimer's disease than those who don't drink at all.

The cross-sectional study looked at current and lifetime alcohol intakes of over 500 participants. Researchers found that moderate lifetime alcohol intake—less than two drinks a day—was significantly associated with lower levels of the amyloid-beta peptide in the brain. In comparison, people who never drank or had only one drink a week, or, on the flip side, had 14 or more drinks a week, all had higher levels of the peptide.

The amyloid-beta peptide, which is a form of plaque, is widely believed to drive the development of Alzheimer's disease. However, we don't fully understand the role of the plaque in Alzheimer's—it could be the sole cause, one of many causes, or even simply a byproduct of the disease. (Related: 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.)

Though the relationship between the amyloid-beta peptide and Alzheimer's may not be causal, literature from over the past two decades suggests that while heavy drinking does appear to play a role in the onset of dementia (of which Alzheimer's is the most common form), light to moderate alcohol use is associated with a decreased risk.

It's important to keep in mind that these studies usually ask participants to self-report their lifetime histories of drinking, and that there are other potential health risks of drinking alcohol every day. However, this research does bring us one step closer to understanding whether an evening glass of wine could keep our cognitive abilities intact as we age. In the meantime, know you can also rely on tofu.

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Urvija Banerji
Urvija Banerji has written about food for publications like Atlas Obscura, Eater, and The Swaddle. Read more about Urvija