June 29 (UPI) -- Low to moderate alcohol consumption may actually improve memory and cognitive function, according to a study published Monday by JAMA Network Open.
Men who consumed less than 15 drinks per week and women who had less than eight drinks per week were 34 percent less likely to experience cognitive decline and 29 percent less likely to suffer from reductions in mental status than those who never drank, researchers said.
"Our study suggested that low to moderate drinking was associated with better total cognitive function and better ... word recall, mental status and vocabulary among middle-aged or older men and women in the United States," the study authors wrote.
"Low to moderate alcohol use was also associated with slower rates of cognitive decline," they said.
Dietary guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend up to two drinks per day for men and up to one drink per day for women.
This equates to approximately one 12-ounce beer or a five-ounce glass of wine, according to the agency.
However, the guidelines do not recommend that people who do not currently drink alcohol start drinking for any reason.
For the current study, the researchers reviewed alcohol consumption and cognitive function for nearly 20,000 American adults, with an average age of 62.
In general, those who consumed low to moderate amounts of alcohol per week performed better on various assessments of cognitive function -- and thus showed less cognitive decline -- than both heavy drinkers and non-drinkers, the researchers said.
For example, they were less likely to have lower scores on tests for word recall and vocabulary, they said. The word recall test measured how many words study participants could recall immediately or five minutes after they were read a list of 10 words.
"The optimal alcohol dosage associated with better cognitive function was 10 to 14 drinks per week for all participants," the authors said.