June 27, 2022

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Drinking alcohol may cause brain smaller and aging earlier

Drinking alcohol may cause brain smaller and aging earlier



 

Nature Communications: Drinking more alcohol may cause  brain smaller and aging earlier.

 

People usually think that drinking is a good thing, and we all know that drinking alcohol is bad for you .

There are also a number of studies examining the link between alcohol consumption and health, but the results of these studies are indeed equivocal.

Some studies have shown that heavy drinking can lead to changes in brain structure and reduce brain size. There are also studies showing that even small amounts of alcohol can increase cancer risk; But there are also studies showing that moderate drinking may have no effect, and even small amounts of alcohol may benefit the brains of older adults.

 

So, what is the effect of drinking a small amount of alcohol on the brain?

 

Recently, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Wisconsin-Madison published a research paper titled: Associations between alcohol consumption and gray and white matter volumes in the UK Biobank in Nature Communications , a sub-journal of Nature .

 

The research team analysed data from more than 36,000 adults in the UK Biobank and found that alcohol consumption was associated with reduced brain volume, with even light to moderate drinking causing damage to the brain, with an average of one bottle a day. The amount of beer drinking is equivalent to two years of aging on the brain.

 

Drinking alcohol may cause brain smaller and aging earlier

 

 

For the study, the research team analysed data from the UK Biobank , which contains genetic and medical information on 500,000 UK adults, and looked specifically at the magnetic properties of the brains of more than 36,000 of them.

Resonance imaging (MRI) data, which can be used to calculate white and gray matter volumes in different regions of the brain.

 

To understand the possible link between alcohol consumption and the brain, it is critical to control for confounding variables that could confound this relationship.

The research team controlled for age, height, sex, smoking status, socioeconomic status, genetic ancestry and place of residence, and also adjusted for brain volume data for overall head size.

 

Because the alcohol content of various types of wine varies, in order to measure the amount of drinking, the “Alcohol Unit” is usually used as a standard , and 1 alcohol unit corresponds to 10 ml of pure alcohol .

A 500ml bottle of beer with 5% alcohol content corresponds to 2.5 alcohol units, a 750ml bottle of wine with 12% alcohol content corresponds to 9 alcohol units, and a 500ml bottle of liquor with 53% alcohol content corresponds to 26.5 alcohol units .

 

Drinking alcohol may cause brain smaller and aging earlier

Alcohol units corresponding to different alcoholic beverages

 

 

The volunteers who participated in the study answered survey questions about their drinking levels, from not drinking at all to an average of 4 or more units of alcohol per day.

 

Results of the analysis showed that 0 to 1 unit of alcohol per day had no significant effect on brain volume, but 1 to 2 units of alcohol per day or 2 to 3 units of alcohol per day was associated with reduced brain gray and white matter. And the effect isn’t linear, it’s exponential, and the more you drink, the worse it gets.

 

Drinking alcohol may cause brain smaller and aging earlier

 

To further understand the impact of this change, the research team compared the reduction in brain volume associated with alcohol consumption with the reduction in brain volume associated with aging.

The results showed that drinking alcohol correlated with brain aging, and that the more alcohol you drank, the stronger the link.

Specifically, the average alcohol consumption increased from 1 alcohol unit (about half a bottle of beer) to 2 alcohol units (about 1 beer or 1 glass of wine) per day , equivalent to 2 years of brain aging.

Average drinking increased from 2 to 3 alcohol units per day, equivalent to 3.5 years of brain aging.

Compared with nondrinkers, those who drank an average of 4 units of alcohol per day had more than 10 years of brain aging .

 

Previous research has shown that heavy drinking is associated with changes in brain structure and volume, as well as affecting cognitive performance.

And this research suggests that even what many believe to be moderate drinking—a few glasses of beer or wine a week—is risky to the brain .

 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that women drink no more than 1 alcohol unit per day and men no more than 2 alcohol units per day, and the results of this study suggest that this recommendation has exceeded the level of brain damage. quantity.

 

In addition, the analysis of this large study shows that the effects of alcohol consumption on the brain are exponential , meaning that some people who don’t drink on weekdays and drink more on weekends may suffer more harm than those who drink every day . Of course, this requires further research to verify.

 

 

 

 

Reference :
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-28735-5

Drinking alcohol may cause brain smaller and aging earlier

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