The brains of people that age who said they drank three alcohol units a day had reductions in both white and gray matter that looked as if they had added 3.5 years to the ages of their brains.
One alcohol unit is 10 milligrams or 8 grams of pure alcohol. That means 25 milligrams or a single shot of liquor is one unit; a 16-ounce can of beer or cider is two units; and a standard 6-ounce glass of wine (175 milligrams) is two units.
The brains of nondrinkers who began consuming an average of one alcohol unit a day showed the equivalent of a half a year of aging, according to the study.
In comparison, drinking four alcohol units a day aged a person’s brain by more than 10 years.
“It’s not linear. It gets worse the more you drink,” first author Remi Daviet, an assistant professor of marketing in the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a statement.
“A problem in this study is that they only have information on people’s drinking habits for the one year prior to the (brain) imaging,” said alcohol researcher Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington.
“I think this is a major limitation of the study as it’s likely that the cumulative consumption of alcohol throughout one’s lifetime is associated with the brain, not just the level of consumption right before the images were taken,” she added.
“The relationship between alcohol and health is complex, and our understanding of that relationship is evolving over time. Based on this study, I would not really draw any definitive conclusions, but I would say that the authors have identified areas for further research.”
Benefits of alcohol?
“There isn’t really a simple answer for a given individual,” she said. “Based on what we do know at this time, whether small amounts of alcohol are beneficial or harmful for an individual depends on that person’s health status and their risk profile. … Are they more prone to heart disease or cancer?”
Brain scans and large study size
The report analyzed data from more than 36,000 people who took part in the UK Biobank study, which houses in-depth genetic and health information on more than 500,000 middle-aged adults living in the United…
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