Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Drinking alcohol at low levels can clear away brain toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer's disease, a study published Friday indicates.
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that low levels of consumption reduced inflammation in the brains of mice.
Researchers focused on the glymphatic system, a brain-cleaning process first described in 2012 by Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, the lead author of the new study.
The system works by pumping cerebral spinal fluid into brain tissue to flush away waste, including proteins associated with dementia. Follow-up studies indicate that the glymphatic system works best during sleep and improves with exercise.
The new study showed that animals exposed to long-term use of alcohol displayed high levels of a marker for inflammation.
Researchers said that was expected, but they also found that those with low levels of alcohol consumption -- about two-and-a-half drinks per day -- exhibited better efficiency at removing waste from their brains.
"Prolonged intake of excessive amounts of ethanol is known to have adverse effects on the central nervous system," Nedergaard, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a press release.
"However, in this study we have shown for the first time that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health, namely it improves the brain's ability to remove waste."
The study adds to the growing body of research indicating that low doses of alcohol have health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and several cancers, researchers say.