It is always a sad feeling for me when I see a man or a woman drinking alcohol. I perceive it as an expression of self-hatred and a tendency to want to drown old hurts instead of seek to heal them. This is never, ever a good plan.
Even moderate drinking causes atrophy in brain area related to memory, learning
Popular belief, backed up by various studies, holds that a moderate amount of alcohol can be good for your heart. Might it have a similar effect on your brain?
The study tracked 550 adults for 30 years, starting when they were, on average, 43 years old, periodically assessing their alcohol consumption and cognitive performance. None of the participants had an alcohol dependency. Standardized testing showed that people who drank the most during the three decades had a faster and greater decline in cognitive functioning than those who consumed less alcohol. Brain MRIs at the end of the study revealed greater hippocampal atrophy, a loss of cells in the region of the brain that is key to memory and learning, among heavier drinkers compared with lighter drinkers. But even moderate drinkers were three times as likely to have brain atrophy as non-drinkers. The researchers found no brain-related benefits for alcohol consumption at any level, including very light drinking, compared with abstinence.
Who may be affected?
Adults who consume alcohol. Current U.S. guidelines describe moderate drinking as one drink a day for women, and two for men. Examples of standard alcoholic drinks include a 12-ounce beer, a five-ounce glass of wine and a 1.5-ounce drink of 80-proof liquor. The study authors wrote that their findings “call into question the current U.S. guidelines.”
Most study participants were men. Data on alcohol consumption came from the participants’ responses on questionnaires. Factors other than alcohol may have contributed to brain changes in the participants.
Find this study
Online June 6 in The BMJ (bmj.com; search for “alcohol consumption”).
Planning to celebrate the new year with a champagne toast? Here's the science of getting drunk. (American Chemical Society)
Information on how alcohol can affect health is available at pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications (click on “Beyond Hangovers . . . ”) and mayoclinic.org (search for “moderate alcohol use”).