We’re told constantly to lower our weekly intake of alcohol, have at least two non-drinking days a week, and be aware of how many units we are consuming, all for health and medical reasons. Two studies this week, however, are stressing the benefits of the demon drink.
Apparently, drinking alcohol can improve recall of any learning that occurs before a drinking session, and the effect gets stronger with greater alcohol consumption. It is thought that the alcohol stops the brain from being able to take on new information, therefore allowing it to process and embed the earlier learning. The full explanation of how this happens is not fully understood, say researchers from the University of Exeter.
“The theory is that the hippocampus – the brain area really important in memory – switches to ‘consolidating’ memories, transferring from short- into longer-term memory,” explains Celia Morgan, a professor of psychopharmacology from the University of Exeter.
Further good news for those that like a tipple comes from Danish researchers who claim that drinking alcohol can significantly protect against diabetes. Not only that, frequent alcohol consumption in both men and women is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes; and alcohol consumption over 3 or 4 days a week gives the lowest risk.
The researchers, from the National Institute of Public Health of the University of Southern Denmark, examined the effects of drinking frequency as well as the types of alcohol consumed. Men having 14 drinks per week were found to have a 43% lower risk of diabetes compared with those who didn’t drink at all. Women consuming nine drinks per week had a 58% lower risk compared with women who didn’t drink at all.
In terms of frequency, the data revealed that consumption of alcohol over 3–4 days a week gave the lowest risk of diabetes: 27% lower risk in men and 32% lower risk in women when compared with individuals drinking less than 1 day per week.
Regarding types of alcohol, moderate-to-high intake of wine was associated with a lower risk of diabetes. The researchers suggest that this might be due to the beneficial effect of polyphenols in wine on blood sugar management. In line with previous studies, red wine in particular was shown to offer most protection. Individuals who consumed seven or more drinks of wine per week had a 25–30% lower risk of diabetes compared with those having less than 1 drink of wine per week.
Difference between the sexes was seen in beer and spirit consumption. Drinking between one and six beers per week resulted in a 21% lower risk of diabetes in men compared with men drinking less than one beer per week. Beer was not associated with any diabetes risk in women. However, women having seven or more drinks of spirits per week was associated with an 83% increased risk of diabetes when compared with women consuming less than one drink of spirits per week.
These studies form only a small part of the research into alcohol, and no doubt another study in the near future will not support the beneficial use of alcohol intake. We should continue to consider the evidence as a whole and not read too much into isolated studies.
AlphaBiolabs performs alcohol testing for both members of the public and the legal profession.