Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania provided an alarming insight into the link between drinking and brain damage. They revealed how one drink a day can age the brain by half a year. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.
The researchers studied longitudinal biomedical datasets from the UK Biobank to understand how alcohol impacts the brain. They observed the drinking habits of 36,000 middle-aged and older adults and how their level of alcohol consumption impacted their brains and cognitive performance.
The research team controlled the various parameters of the participant group—such as age, height, sex, smoking status, genetic ancestry, brain–volume data, and overall head size. They specifically studied individual brain MRIs of the participants to calculate gray and white matter volume in different regions of the brain.
The results strengthened the link between alcohol consumption and brain aging. The brains of heavy drinkers aged the same way as elderly people. People with habits of moderate alcohol consumption fared better. For instance, going from zero to a daily average of one alcohol unit was associated with the equivalent of half a year of aging. On the other hand, the difference between zero and four drinks was more than 10 years of aging in people with heavy drinking habits.
Even light-to-moderate drinking led to reduced gray and white matter in the brain, though the reduced brain volume was not localized to any particular brain region.
Heeding The “Lesson”
The researchers are hopeful that people might heed the findings of the study and regulate their everyday alcohol consumption. One of the lead researchers, Gideon Nave, elaborated: “It means that cutting back on that final drink of the night might have a big effect in terms of brain aging.”
To Know More You May Refer To
Daviet, R., Aydogan, G., Jagannathan, K. et al. Associations between alcohol consumption and gray and white matter volumes in the UK Biobank. Nat Commun 13, 1175 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-28735-5