According to a recent study in the British Medical Journal, one of the world’s leading medical journals, alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels, causes pathological changes in the brain, increases the risk of brain damage, and accelerates cognitive decline.
Several studies have analyzed the brain’s harmful consequences of excessive alcohol consumption, but few have done so with regard to moderate alcohol consumption.
Therefore, the authors of the study, a group of British researchers from the universities of Oxford and College London, have decided to check whether the moderate intake of alcoholic beverages has positive, negative or no effect on brain structure and functions.
The study involved 550 healthy men and women, analyzing their data on alcohol consumption and their cognitive performance for 30 years (1985-2015). Tests were performed on the brain functions at regular intervals and at the end of the study (2012-15), all participants underwent an MRI. Factors that may influence outcomes such as age, sex, education, social class, physical and social activity, smoking, stroke risk, and clinical history of each were considered.
In the end, the results showed that increased alcohol consumption over the 30-year study period is associated with an increased risk of hippocampal atrophy, a form of brain damage that affects memory and spatial orientation. Individuals who consumed more than 30 units per week were at high risk compared to abstinence. But even those who drank moderately (14-21 units per week) * were three times more likely to have hippocampal atrophy than those who did not consume any alcohol.
* It should be noted that the 14 units considered as a reference for moderate consumption correspond to four glasses of beer (pint) or five glasses of wine (175 ml) of 14 degrees.