Blog » Regular consumption of small amounts of alcohol is destructive to the brain

Regular consumption of small amounts of alcohol is destructive to the brain

Created May 09 2022, 6:24 AM by Daniel Rogan

The study was conducted by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania on the basis of data from 36,000 people who participated in the UK Biobank program. The database contains a variety of biological and medical data, including MRI images of volunteers' brains.


The brains of people who drink alcohol are up to 10 years older

For example, data analysis has shown that 50-year-olds who drank an average of one beer (or glass of wine) a day have brains that are 2 years older than those who drank half a beer a day. On the other hand, compared to the consumption of one beer a day, drinking one and a half beer will age the brain by another 3.5 years. There was little difference between abstainers and those consuming half a beer a day.

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The dependence is therefore not linear and each additional portion accelerates the degeneration process.


A 50-year-old person who regularly drinks two beers a day (or its equivalent) has a brain 10 years older than non-drinking peers.


- The analysis of data on such a large group allowed us to recognize subtle patterns and differences even between the equivalent of half a beer and one beer a day - points out Prof. Gideon Nave, one of the authors of a paper published in Nature Communications.

The results contrast with other research and government recommendations on safe drinking limits. For example, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends women drink a maximum of one or two drinks a day and men drink twice as much. These are doses that exceed the consumption associated with the loss of brain volume observed in our study - emphasizes another member of the team, Prof. Henry Kranzler.


Less alcohol is also a risk

In the past, many researchers have looked at the long-term effects of alcohol on the brain and nervous system. As a rule, the negative consequences of consuming more alcohol were emphasized, and sometimes the positive effects of drinking less alcohol were indicated. However, such conclusions were usually based on data from analyzes involving small populations.


- Access to the base we used was like using a microscope or a telescope with a much stronger lens. In this way, you can get a higher resolution and see patterns and connections that could not be seen before - explains Prof. Nave.


To confirm the effects of alcohol, researchers considered a variety of co-factors such as age, height, gender, BMI, smoking, socioeconomic status, genetics, country of residence, even left- and right-handedness.


The authors of the discovery are already planning further research. They want to compare, among others, the effect of frequent but moderate drinking with less frequent, e.g. weekend, heavy alcohol consumption. Researchers would also like to take a closer look at cause-effect relationships, which may become feasible thanks to new, emerging databases on volunteers observed over the years.


- We can be able to analyze various phenomena occurring over time and understand the causes and effects together with genetics - emphasizes the scientist.


Although the current study only found correlations, the authors believe it may send a signal to drinkers to rethink their decisions. Especially those who drink more should consider.