A study reveals the relationship between alcohol consumption and risk of brain problems
Drinking alcohol, even moderate levels S, is associated with an increased risk of adverse cerebral outcomes and greater decline in cognitive (mental), it concludes a study published by ‘The BMJ ‘. It is known that excessive alcohol consumption is associated with poor brain health, but few analyses have examined the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on the brain and the results are inconsistent.
A team of researchers from the University of Oxford and University College London, both in the United Kingdom, set out to investigate whether moderate alcohol consumption has a beneficial or harmful association – or no relation – to the structure and The function of the brain. They used data on weekly alcohol intake and cognitive performance measured repeatedly over 30 years (1985-2015) for 550 healthy men and women participating in the Whitehall II study, which is assessing the impact of social and economic factors on health at About 10,000 British adults.
Participants had a mean age of 43 years at baseline and none were dependent on alcohol. Brain function tests were performed at regular intervals and at the end of the study (2012-15), the subjects underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan. Several factors that may have influenced outcomes (known as confounding factors), such as age, sex, education, social class, physical and social activity, smoking, stroke risk, and medical history were considered.
Does moderate alcohol consumption damage our brains?
After adjusting for these confounders, the researchers found that increased alcohol consumption during the 30-year study period was associated with an increased risk of hippocampal atrophy, a form of brain damage that affects memory and spatial navigation.
While those who consumed more than 30 units a week were at the highest risk compared to non-consumers, even those who drank moderately (14-21 units per week) were three times more likely to have hippocampus atrophy in Comparison with abstainers. There was no protective effect of moderate drinking (up to seven units per week) on abstinence.
Higher consumption was also associated with less white substance integrity (critical for efficient cognitive functioning) and a faster decline in language fluency (how many words beginning with a specific letter can be generated in one minute); But no association was found with semantic fluency (how many words in a specific category can be named in a minute) or remembering words.
The authors point out that this is an observational study, so it is not possible to draw firm conclusions about cause and effect and say that some limitations could have introduced bias. However, the key strengths of his research include information on long-term alcohol consumption and the detailed data available on confounding factors.
In its view, its findings have significant potential public health implications for a large segment of the population. “Our findings support the recent reduction of safety limits in the UK and call into question the current US guidelines, which suggest that up to 24.5 units per week are safe for men, as we are more likely to Atrophy of the hippocampus with only 14-21 units per week, and we found no support for a protective effect of moderate consumption on the brain structure, “they write.
“Alcohol may represent a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, and primary prevention interventions targeting old age may be too late,” they conclude.