A DAILY pint of beer or glass of wine boosts brain power and protects against memory loss in old age, a study suggests.

Moderate drinkers scored consistently higher than heavy-boozers and teetotallers in a range of mental ability tests.

They also remained mentally sharp for longer as they aged.

Researchers at the University of Georgia, in Athens, quizzed 19,887 people with an average age of 62 on their drinking habits.

They then sat at least three rounds of tests, two or more years apart and spaced over a period of up to 12 years.

Put to the test

The tests analysed their memory, thinking skills, language, understanding and knowledge.

Those who drank a moderate amount of alcohol – less than 15 drinks a week for men and eight for women – scored highest.

They also saw their performance decline less over the course of the experiment.

Scores increased steadily as the amount of alcohol consumed went up but then worsened beyond a certain point.

The optimal dose was ten to 14 drinks a week.

Brain boost

Compared to non-drinkers, low to moderate drinkers were a third less likely to score consistently badly in the tests.

Dr Changwei Li said: “Our study suggested that low to moderate drinking was associated with better total cognitive function.

“Low to moderate alcohol use was also associated with slower rates of cognitive decline.”

The boffins say it is not clear why alcohol boosts the brain but believe it is to do with the effect it has on the heart and blood vessels.

Some studies have linked booze to fewer heart attacks and longer life expectancy – but others found it may increase the risk of stroke and high blood pressure.

Dr Li added: “The role of alcohol drinking in cognitive function may be a balance of its beneficial and harmful effects on the cardiovascular system.

“Among low to moderate drinkers, the beneficial effects may outweigh the harmful effects on the cardiovascular system.”

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

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