Dementia warning: Just ONE glass of wine or pint of beer each day could put you at risk

But new research by academics from a number of universities including Oxford has shown that drinking even that amount of alcohol could be a serious risk to health, particularly to the middle aged.

The report could lead to a rethink on official advice about safe levels of drinking.

The study, published in the Journal Of Public Health, examined the effects of alcohol consumption on neurodegenerative conditions.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have replaced ischemic heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales, and death rates for neurological disease are increasing worldwide. 

Researchers wanted to explore the effects of alcohol upon the problem.

Data was drawn from UK Biobank, a database of health records of middle-aged and older adults. 

People who drank alcohol at least once a week or more frequently were chosen and given reaction time tests over a period of four years.

Alcohol was shown to badly affect the part of the brain responsible for cognitive functions.

It said: “Consuming more than one UK standard unit of alcohol per day is detrimental to cognitive performance and is more pronounced in older populations.

“UK guidelines are that drinkers should not consume more than 16 grams of alcohol a day.

“Our findings are of particular relevance to older individuals who demonstrated a great rate of decline if alcohol consumption increased.”

Current government advice on drinking is that two units a day – equivalent of a glass of wine or a pint of beer for men and women are within “low risk” guidelines.

The guidance was revised down last year in light of new research which showed that the benefits of moderate drinking for heart health were not as strong as previously thought and that the risks of developing certain forms of cancer associated with alcohol had been underestimated.

Meanwhile, almost three in five adults say they drink alcohol because it helps them cope with the pressures of day-to-day life, a survey found.

Research by Drinkaware looked at the drinking patterns of 18 to 75-year-olds in the UK and found nearly two in five who had drunk alcohol in the past year said they had done so to forget their problems at least some of the time.

Nearly half said they had done so to cheer themselves up when in a bad mood, while 58 per cent said it helped them to cope with the pressures of everyday life.

Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said: “What this thought-provoking survey shows is that a worrying number of people are drinking alcohol to help them cope with the pressures of day-to-day life.

“Whilst people might think having a drink after a hard day can help them relax, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with.

“This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with the neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health.”