If you think drinking alcohol is almost entirely negative then you might be surprised by the results of a new study.

Dr. Sine Berntsen of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and his team led a study to discover what would happen to patients with early stage Alzheimer’s disease and what happened to overall mortality with moderate drinking.

Surprisingly those who drank light to moderate amounts were less likely to die during their first year after diagnosis compared to those who drank very little to none.

Bernsten said in an interview with Reuters Health, “These results are somewhat surprising because Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease and we know that alcohol can have harmful effects on the brain…On the other hand we have seen in earlier studies that alcohol in light to moderate amounts can have a protective effect on cardiovascular disease and mortality in healthy adults.”

After following 321 participants for a total of four years they observed less than 10% of the study participants consumed no alcohol. 70% of them had “1 unit” of alcohol (equal to around 10 milliliters of alcohol, or a third of a pint of beer or half a glass of wine) of alcohol per day and then 17 % drank 2 to 3 units and 5% drank more than 3.

After the 4 years 53 of the 321 participants passed away. The ones who were drinking anywhere from 2 to 3 units per day were 77% less likely to die than those who drank the least (1 to no units) a day. This was true no matter the age, education, smoking habits or gender.

The researchers weren’t all that sure why exactly these drinking habits produced the effect they did.

Berntsen said “We cannot say for certain what the explanation behind this is…Earlier studies on alcohol and mortality in healthy subjects have proposed different explanations for reduced mortality with light-to-moderate alcohol intake such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, modification of inflammation and increase in insulin sensitivity.”

One of the theories was that those who drank more likely engaged in wider amounts of social activity and had better social lives. Frequent socialization is known to have overwhelmingly positive effects on health, especially in the elderly.

There is also the association moderate drinking can have on cardiovascular health and cholesterol (both of which are positive).

And other physicians think either of these two explanations might explain the correlation.

Though not directly involved in the study Dr. Siegfried Weyerer commented saying, “I cannot see any reason why patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease who consume alcohol responsibly should not have those health-related benefits including higher life expectancy.”

However, just because these results were shown to be true that doesn’t mean it should cause people who don’t drink to start drinking on the basis of this study alone.