June 25, 2024

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Startling Link Between Alcohol and Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists Uncover Startling Link Between Alcohol and Alzheimer’s Disease



 

Scientists Uncover Startling Link Between Alcohol and Alzheimer’s Disease.

A study conducted by Wake Forest University School of Medicine has revealed that even moderate alcohol consumption can accelerate brain atrophy and exacerbate the formation of amyloid protein plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers using a mouse model found that sustained exposure to alcohol disrupts metabolism, raises blood sugar levels, and increases the risk of other diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.

 

Scientists Uncover Startling Link Between Alcohol and Alzheimer's Disease

 

 

The study suggests that even moderate alcohol consumption can expedite brain degeneration, enlarge the formation of amyloid plaques, and consequently heighten the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Association reports that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of dementia cases. While current research suggests that alcohol use disorder is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, the impact of alcohol use disorder on the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease remains an area requiring further investigation.

In a preclinical study, scientists from Wake Forest University School of Medicine discovered that even moderate alcohol consumption could accelerate brain atrophy (i.e., loss of brain cells) and increase the quantity of amyloid protein plaques, which are accumulations of toxic proteins in Alzheimer’s disease.

This research was published in the “Neurobiology of Disease” journal.

Dr. Shannon Macauley, Associate Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, stated, “These findings suggest that alcohol may accelerate the pathological cascade of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.”

The study was led by Dr. Jeffrey Weiner, Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and conducted through the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Translational Alcohol Research Center at the medical school.

 

Research Methods and Findings

Researchers utilized a mouse model with Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology and employed a 10-week chronic alcohol drinking paradigm, allowing the mice to choose between water and alcohol, mimicking human drinking behavior. They then explored how voluntary moderate alcohol consumption altered brain health, behavior, and whether alcohol affected pathological changes associated with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers found that alcohol exacerbated brain atrophy and led to an increase in the number of amyloid protein plaques, including more small plaques, which could facilitate future plaque proliferation.

Interestingly, researchers also noted that acute alcohol withdrawal increased the levels of amyloid-beta, a primary component of Alzheimer’s disease amyloid plaques.

Further analysis indicated that long-term alcohol exposure adversely affected both brain and peripheral metabolism—a separate pathway by which Alzheimer’s disease pathology may be accelerated. Macauley had previously confirmed that elevated blood sugar increases amyloid-beta and amyloid plaques. In the current study, researchers found that even moderate alcohol consumption resulted in elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance markers, which not only increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease but also raise the risk of other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.

Significance of the Study

The research also revealed that moderate alcohol consumption altered anxiety and dementia-related behaviors.

Macauley commented, “These preclinical study findings indicate that even moderate alcohol consumption can lead to brain damage. Alcohol consumption may be a modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”

Scientists Uncover Startling Link Between Alcohol and Alzheimer’s Disease

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