Doctor Jairo Even light alcohol consumption can cause brain damage

A new study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania (USA) revealed that even light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with brain damage.

The results suggest that brain volume begins to shrink with the consumption of less than one unit of alcohol per day, which equates to approximately half a can of beer, and that this reduction increases with each dose extra drink.

Research has even shown that going from one to two drinks a day is associated with equivalent brain changes. to the aging two years.

Drinking in moderation also carries risks.

For science, the association between “abusive alcohol consumption” and the impact of this habit on the brain is very clear. People who drink heavily have changes in brain structure and size which are associated with cognitive impairment.

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However, according to the study (published in Nature Communication), even modest alcohol consumption may also increase brain health risks.

For the researchers, the results contrast with scientific and government guidelines on safe consumption limits. According to the Health Organization (WHO), on only one occasion, men can drink up to four drinks and women up to three drinks in a row.

Reduced brain volume

For the study, the team used biomedical data examining MRI scans of the brains of over 36,000 adults. This data can be used to calculate the volume of white and gray matter in different regions of the brain.

To understand the possible links between alcohol consumption and its impact on brain health, variables that could overshadow the relationship: age, height, obesity, sex, smoking, socio-economic status, genetic ancestry and commune of residence. The team also corrected brain volume data for overall head size.

To verify:

Participants answered questions about their level of alcohol consumption. When the researchers grouped people by average levels of drinking, a small but apparent pattern emerged: the volume of gray and white matter that could be predicted by the individual’s other characteristics was reduced.

According to the data, going from zero to one unit of alcohol didn’t make much of a difference in brain volume, but going from taking one to two doses per day was associated with reductions in the gray and white matter of brain.

brain aging

The observed link was all the stronger as the level of alcohol consumption was high. The researchers compared the reductions in brain size associated with alcohol consumption with those that occur with aging.

According to their modelling, each additional unit of alcohol consumed per day translated into a greater effect of aging on the brain.

For example, a 50-year-old person who increases their consumption from one unit of alcohol per day to two will experience changes in the brain equivalent to two years of aging. Going from two to three drinks of alcohol in that same age group was like getting three and a half years old.

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