Uh-Oh, Even Moderate Drinking Can Mess Up Your Brain
Do you one drink after a hard day at work? Maybe you throw back a few beers on the weekend when watching sports or hanging with your boys. You’re not an alcoholic and it’s just a few drinks a week, so it can’t hurt. Right? Bad news, even moderate drinking can mess up your brain. Uh-oh.
A new study of 550 healthy men and women that was done between 1985 to 2015 found a link between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of cognitive decline. The study, which was published last month in BMJ, discovered that not only did heavy drinking affect the brain negatively, but also moderate drinking has ill effects as well.
The 30-year study adjusted for a variety of factors, including age, education, physical and social activity, social class, and medical history. Alcohol consumption, even when done moderately, had an association with increased risk of hippocampal atrophy, a form of brain damage that affects memory and spatial navigation. Those who engaged in drinking moderately (14 to 21 units per week — about 5 to 7 beers or 6 to 8 glasses of wine) were three times more likely to have hippocampal atrophy compared with those who did not drink. Heavy drinkers, people who consume more than 30 units of alcohol, had the highest risk. People who drank more than seven units of alcohol per week experienced a faster decline in language fluency over the study compared to those who did not drink at all.
“As previous studies had reported the moderate drinking was protective against cognitive decline and dementia, we expected to find a similar association with adverse brain outcomes, which could underlie the protection,” study author Anya Topiwala, a clinical lecturer in the department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, told CBS News. “Instead we found the opposite.”