Now, this is new research we can get behind!

Research is usually split on the conclusions it draws about alcohol and your health. Moderate drinking, particularly of wine, has shown some promising benefits, while heavy drinking is consistently found to put a strain on health. The general consensus is that one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men is considered safe but, really, exactly how much is too much? New research from the University of Georgia may have found the magic number for older adults.

men drinking whiskey
Credit: Getty: krisanapong detraphiphat

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open looked at how alcohol may specifically be linked with the cognitive function of adults as they age. They followed nearly 20,000 people (average age 62) for nine years to glean information about their health and lifestyle, including their habits around drinking. What they found sounds like good news for anyone who enjoys a nightly beverage.

For this study, they defined moderate drinking as up to 8 drinks a week for women and up to 15 drinks a week for men. To assess cognitive function, they looked at overall mental status, memory and vocabulary through a series of surveys. Every two years of the nine-year study, they repeated these tests to identify trends in participants' cognitive health. Compared to those who did not drink, those who enjoyed a drink or two a day had better results and were on more positive trajectories. Through this, they established the optimal amount of drinking that was associated with better cognitive health was between 10 and 14 drinks a week—for both men and women.

The Bottom Line

So, should you start drinking more if you aren't meeting that mark? The answer is probably no. Though those who drank moderately and consistently showed better results in this study, there are likely several other lifestyle factors at play, and the researchers concluded that more studies of the links between alcohol drinking and cognition are needed. Meanwhile, this study offers some evidence that a nightly glass of wine, beer or cocktail may be associated with good cognitive health. Now that is something we can cheers to!