Even moderate drinking linked to a decline in brain health, finds study
Alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels, is associated with increased risk of adverse brain outcomes and steeper decline in cognitive (mental) skills, finds a study published by The BMJ today.
These results support the recent reduction in alcohol guidance in the UK and raise questions about the current limits recommended in the US, say the authors.
Heavy drinking is known to be associated with poor brain health, but few studies have examined the effects of moderate drinking on the brain—and results are inconsistent.
So a team of researchers based at the University of Oxford and University College London set out to investigate whether moderate alcohol consumption has a beneficial or harmful association—or no association at all—with brain structure and function.
They used data on weekly alcohol intake and cognitive performance measured repeatedly over 30 years (1985-2015) for 550 healthy men and women who were taking part in the Whitehall II study.
This study is evaluating the impact of social and economic factors on the long term health of around 10,000 British adults.
Participants had an average age of 43 at the start of the study and none were alcohol dependent. Brain function tests were carried out at regular intervals and at the end of the study (2012-15), participants underwent an MRI brain scan.
Several factors that could have influenced the results (known as confounding) were taken into account, such as age, sex, education, social class, physical and social activity, smoking, stroke risk and medical history.
After adjusting for these confounders, the researchers found that higher alcohol consumption over the 30 year study period was associated with increased risk of hippocampal atrophy – a form of brain damage that affects memory and spatial navigation.
Source: Medical Xpress