It's not uncommon for people to have a couple of glasses of wine or beer in order to unwind after a long day at work. In fact, recent evidence has even stated that it is healthy, as long as people do not veer into binge drinkers' territory, which has been classified as four servings of alcohol for women in a single sitting and five servings of alcohol for men.

However, a new study, from researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland, has suggested that even moderate drinking could place drinkers at risk. Lead author Megan Anderson and her colleagues state that moderate drinking could place imbibers at risk for lower production of brain cells and decreased ability for certain types of learning.

Researchers allowed rats to voluntarily reach a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal level of intoxication for most of the United States and many other countries. At such a level - the equivalent of three to four drinks for women and five drinks for men - drinkers have no impaired motor skills and no decreased ability to learn in the short-term. But researchers compared the drinking rats with those that had abstained from alcohol, and found that those with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 had a decreased ability to produce brain cells. More specifically, the number of nerve cells in the hippocampus had decreased by up to 40 percent when compared to those who had abstained. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that creates new neurons and is responsible for certain types of learning.

"If this area of your brain was affected every day over many months and years, eventually you might not be able to learn how to get somewhere new or to learn something new about your life," Megan Anderson said in a statement. "It's something that you might not even be aware is occurring."

The National Institute of Abuse and Alcoholism considers men who have 14 drinks a week and women who have seven to be at-risk drinkers.

Interestingly, while a common assumption is that most college students binge-drink, the institute says that 70 percent of binge-drinking episodes occurred in people over the age of 26.

The study was published in an issue of the journal Neuroscience.