Even Moderate Drinking May Be Bad For The Brain

What is a unit of alcohol?Courtesy The BMJ

What is a unit of alcohol?

For heavier drinkers, there was also a slight drop in the “integrity” of the white matter, the connective tracts between cells that allow neurons to communicate. It’s not totally clear how these physical brain changes translate to function: The only change in cognition was that with increasing alcohol consumption, there was very slight decrease in performance on a test of semantic fluency, which measures how many words a person can generate in a particular category within a certain amount of time. There were no changes other cognitive functions.

The takeaway of the study seems to be that moderate drinking isn’t without its own risks, at least when it comes to atrophy of the hippocampus. The hippocampus generally shrinks with age, and it’s a central area affected by Alzheimer’s disease. So anything that detracts from or contributes to its health as we age is important to be aware of.

It’s important to point out that this was an observational study, and the outcome was just a correlation—and despite the fact that the authors tried to control for as many confounding variables as they could, causation still can’t be assumed. There could be some other, as yet unknown, variable that was responsible for the connection between alcohol and brain health. Still, the participants were all living pretty healthy lifestyles, it’s also true that the results observed here might be even more pronounced in the general population.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: