Drinking a small glass of wine every day could help prevent Alzheimer's disease, experts say.
Scientists have discovered that 25ml of wine per day, getting a good night's sleep and increasing heart rate through exercise can help stimulate the brain's own cleaning system.
Previous studies have shown that Alzheimer's disease is associated with the toxic build-up of proteins in the brain, which causes neuron cells to die.
Studies are now focusing on the link between the brain's self-cleaning, known as the glymphatic system, and the formation of these proteins linked to cell death and the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Dr Ian Harrison, from University College London, told the Cheltenham Science Festival that research was now focusing on finding ways of preventing the glymphatic system from failing.
He said studies on the cerebrospinal fluid – clear fluid found in the brain - of mice had shown that a combination of sleep, exercise and alcohol stimulated self-cleaning.
Researchers studied the difference between mice who were asleep and those awake and found that the glymphatic system – essentially the system that clears the brain of waste or toxins – was 60 per cent more active than in the animals that were awake .
"This is good evidence that the glymphatic system is active during sleep. If that is anything to go by we should all be sleeping a lot more than we are,” he said.
"That kind of makes sense because, if you think about it, when your brain is active during the day these cells are going to be actively producing all these waste products, so it is only at night that it has the chance to switch on our glymphatic system and get rid of waste products."
Dr Harrison said there were comparable results with exercise, saying that a faster heart rate increases this cerebrospinal fluid into the brain, boosting the lymphatic function.
And perhaps most surprising at all, the mice given a low-level dose of alcohol for 30 days saw an increase in the brain’s self-cleaning of up to 40 per cent.
But there was a reduction in this for those exposed to intermediate and high-levels of alcohol.
"So 25ml of wine could actually increase your glymphatic system, according to this mouse study," Dr Harrison said.
"But the intermediate dose of one unit of alcohol - a small dose of wine - suggests that if the mouse data can be extrapolated the lymphatic system can be lowered.
"So, sleep more, exercise and, as the data suggests, you can have a drink, but only a third of a unit of wine per day."
Additional reporting from PA.