[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 2 Issue 2, September 2011].
This systematic review found that, generally, light to moderate drinking does not impair cognition in young people. Moderate drinking of alcohol actually reduces the risk of dementia and cognitive decline in older subjects. The benefit of moderate alcohol consumption for cognition applies to both men and women, although the amount and pattern of drinking differs between the two sexes.
Note: Conversely, heavy drinking appears to be associated with (non-significantly) higher cognitive risk for dementia and cognitive impairment.
Meta-analysis of the data seems to indicate that wine is more beneficial than beer or spirits, but uncertainties remain on this question.
Neafsey, EJ. Collins, MA. (2011). Moderate alcohol consumption and cognitive risk. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, August 11th 2011. [Epub ahead of print]. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).