Moderate alcohol intake is associated with a loss in total brain volume

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There is an abundance of research supporting the idea that a small glass of wine in the evening promotes good heart health, but how does it affect your brain? According to a study published in the October issue of Archives of Neurology, moderate alcohol intake is associated with a loss in total brain volume, more volume loss than expected from aging alone (P<0.001). According to Carol Ann Paul, of Wellesley College, the cardiovascular benefits from low to moderate alcohol consumption supposedly come from an increase in blood flow, which would be thought to help the brain as well. However, low and moderate alcohol intake was closely related to the cognitive decline and brain atrophy associated with heavy drinking. Paul, summing things up, said, "The brain shrinkage that you see with Alzheimer's and dementia is of a much greater magnitude… however, any decrease in brain volume is probably not beneficial." The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:

They analyzed self-reported alcohol intake for 1,839 participants in the community-based Framingham Offspring Study who had an MRI between 1999 and 2001 but no clinically evident neurological disease, stroke, or dementia.

Most participants reported drinking one to seven alcoholic beverages a week, which is considered low intake. Men were more likely to report moderate or high — more than 14 drinks per week — alcohol consumption.

Increasing alcohol consumption was associated with decreasing total cerebral brain volume, which remained significant after adjustment for head circumference, age, sex, education, body mass index, and Framingham Stroke Risk Profile score (P<0.01).

The slope of this negative association (−0.25) was slightly greater than that for the average annual decline expected with aging.

Moderate drinking had a significantly worse impact on the brain than former drinking (P=0.03).

Heavy drinking was associated with significantly smaller brain volume compared with all other groups (P<0.01 versus abstinence, former drinking, and low intake, P=0.04 versus moderate intake).

Click here to read the rest of this article from Medpage Today

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