It may be time to put that glass of beer down, or maybe not. A new study questions the benefits of alcohol consumption—even “moderate” amounts—for the aging brain, but the final answer is not yet in.
Previous research has suggested that drinking alcohol could be good for the brain, but a new study shows that drinking any amount could increase your risk of developing symptoms of dementia, like memory loss and other mental problems.
The study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada, followed 1,300 women for 20 years, starting in their mid-60s.
The risk of developing symptoms of dementia increased for all levels of alcohol consumption from light (up to seven glasses a week) to moderate (seven to 14 glasses a week). Heavy drinkers were excluded from this study.
In addition, women who started drinking during the study, and those who increased their alcohol consumption, also showed an greater risk of developing mental problems.
In another study of 5,075 men and women, people who had at least one episode a month of “binge drinking” were more likely to show symptoms of dementia. This risk doubled when they drank heavily twice a month.
Neither study has been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal, so the results are still preliminary. Further research will be needed to determine the dangers and benefits of alcohol on the brain.
Some medical experts suggest that—if you already drink—keep it to light levels. That way, you reap some of the benefits, while protecting yourself from the possible negative effects.