A study of 36,678 people found thatone extra drink per day would shrink the brain.
The consumption ofalcoholeven moderate, causes cardiovascular problems and brain damage. The transition from one to two “units» of drink per day could cause brain matter to shrink. Concretely, this would be equivalent to 2 years of aging.
Alcohol: the worst enemy of the human brain?
The scientists had access to the number of units per week or per month declared by the participants. Units are how the UK measures the amount of alcohol, and an American standard drink is about 1.75 units. Researchers also had access to data from MRI for each participant. These images allowed them to determine the size of the brain: the grey matter and the white matter.
“These findings contrast with scientific and government guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits.»
Henry Kranzler, researcher in Psychiatry at the Penn Center for Studies of Addiction
The researchers took into account factors such as age, BMI and gender. They found a negative correlation between alcohol consumption and participants’ brain structure. This phenomenon has been observed throughout the brain. However, it was noted that the most important changes occurred in 3 areas of the cortex: the brainstemthe putamen and thetonsil.
Rapid brain aging highlighted
The researchers found that at the age of 50 yearspeople who consume 4 units per day show a change in brain volume. In fact, the gray matter and the white matter shrink and present a additional aging equivalent to 10 years.
“This multimodal imaging study demonstrates that even moderate alcohol consumption can be associated with changes in brain volume in middle-aged and older adults.»
The team also found a difference between people who drank one glass a day and those who drink 2. For a person aged 50, this difference corresponds to 2 years of aging from brain.
“The people who can benefit the most from reducing alcohol consumption are those who already drink the most.»
Gideon Nave, consumer neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania