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Boost Your Brain

A recent study shows a boost in brain power for women who enjoy a little alcohol. The study, published in the Jan. 20 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, evaluated more than 12,000 women aged 70-81. Moderate drinkers scored better than teetotalers on tests of mental function. Researchers found a boost in brainpower with one drink a day. Moderate drinkers had a 23% reduced risk of mental decline compared with nondrinkers.

With Alcohol, Moderation Is Key: Easy Does It

Just as you shouldn't eat a 12-ounce steak daily, you need to watch your portion sizes of alcohol as well.

What is one drink?

  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits, such as vodka

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend one drink a day for women and two a day for men. This doesn't mean to can save them up for a weekend party and expect to get the same benefits.

Will a Drink a Day Make You Fat?

A drink a day may help keep your brain sharp and heart healthy but what about the calories?

Alcohol supplies calories with few essential nutrients. If you drink alcohol, it needs to be budgeted into "discretionary calories" to maintain a healthy weight according to the 2005 dietary guidelines.

"Most Americans are sedentary, putting them into the lower calorie levels, leaving little room for alcohol, sweets, and extra fats," states Theresa Nicklas, DrPH, a member of the dietary guidelines advisory committee.

It is more important and healthful to select foods packed with nutrients, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than alcohol when calories are limited. The health benefits of moderate alcohol do not outweigh the risks of being overweight or obese, says Nicklas.

An individual on an 1,800-calorie level eating plan only has 195 discretionary calories or the equivalent of a 9-ounce glass of wine or a small dessert. If you want dessert along with your daily allotment of alcohol, you need to increase physical activity to balance your calories to achieve a healthy weight, according to Nicklas.

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