Alcohol consumption

Question corner | Is there a link between alcohol consumption and brain size?

Is there a link between alcohol consumption and brain size?

The science on binge drinking and the brain is clear. The two do not have a healthy relationship. People who drink heavily have alterations in brain structure and size that are associated with cognitive impairment.

But drinking alcohol, even at levels most would consider modest — a few beers or glasses of wine a week — can also pose risks to the brain, according to a new study. An analysis of data from more than 36,000 adults, led by a team from the University of Pennsylvania, found that light to moderate alcohol consumption was associated with reductions in overall brain volume.

The link strengthened as the level of alcohol consumption increased, the researchers showed. For example, in 50-year-olds, as the average consumption in individuals increases from one unit of alcohol (about half a beer) per day to two units (a pint of beer or a glass of wine) , there are associated changes in the brain. equivalent to aging for two years. Going from two to three units of alcohol at the same age was like getting three and a half years old. The team reported their findings in the newspaper Communication Nature.

Going from zero to one unit of alcohol didn’t make much of a difference in brain volume, but going from one to two or two to three units a day was associated with reductions in gray and white matter, according to the press release. University of Pennsylvania.

Much research has examined the link between alcohol consumption and brain health, with ambiguous results. Although there is strong evidence that excessive alcohol consumption causes changes in brain structure, including large reductions in gray and white matter in the brain, other studies have suggested that moderate levels of alcohol consumption might not have an impact, or even light consumption might be beneficial for the brain. in the elderly.