Health & Fitness

Low level of alcohol intake potentially beneficial for brain

Print edition : March 02, 2018

LOW to moderate drinking helps keep not only the heart but also the brain in shape. A study by a team of researchers in the United States showed that apart from suppressing inflammation of the brain cells, low levels of alcohol consumption help the brain clear away toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer’s.

Scientists led by Maiken Nedergaard at the Centre for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Centre reported in the journal Scientific Reports on February 2 that while prolonged intake of excessive amounts of alcohol is known to have adverse effects on the central nervous system, low levels of alcohol consumption are potentially beneficial to brain health and improve the brain’s ability to remove waste.

The study carried out experiments on mice and studied the glymphatic system, the brain’s unique cleaning process that was first described by Maiken Nedergaard and her colleagues in 2012. In their 2012 study, the researchers unravelled the mechanism by which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flushed away toxins, including the proteins beta amyloid and tau that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The new study looked at the impact of both acute and chronic alcohol exposure. When they studied the brains of animals exposed to high levels of alcohol over a long period of time, the researchers observed high levels of a molecular marker for inflammation in cells called astrocytes which are key regulators of the glymphatic system. They also noted the impairment of the animal’s cognitive abilities and motor skills. Animals that were exposed to low levels of alcohol showed less inflammation in the brain. Their glymphatic system was more efficient in moving CSF through the brain and removing waste as compared to the mice that were not exposed to alcohol.

T.V. Jayan

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