Can a glass of wine or a pint of beer make any change in the age of people? A team from the University of Pennsylvania has found that a glass of wine or a pint of beer daily carries much risk as it can bring in changes to the brain equivalent to ageing two years.
The researchers found that even light-to-moderate alcohol consumption is related to reductions in overall brain volume. Already, it is a known fact that people who drink heavily have alterations in brain structure and size that are associated with cognitive impairments.
The journal Nature Communications published the findings.
Co-corresponding author Remi Daviet, who was at Penn during the study and now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said that evidence is there that the effect of drinking on the brain is exponential.
As such an additional drink in a day could have more of an impact than any of the previous drinks that day. This meant that cutting back on the final drink of the night might have a big effect in terms of brain ageing.
The researchers looked at brain MRIs from more than 36,000 adults. The participants were grouped by average-consumption levels, a small but apparent pattern emerged: The gray and white matter volume that might otherwise be predicted by the individual’s other characteristics was reduced.
They found that going from zero to one alcohol unit 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 both gray and white matter.
Even removing the heavy drinkers from the analyses, the associations remained. The lower brain volume was not localised to any one brain region, the scientists found.
And while the researchers underscore that their study looked only at correlations, they say the findings may prompt drinkers to reconsider how much they imbibe.