Saturday, December 27, 2008

Moderate Drinking May Decrease Brain Size

According to a recent study published in Archives of Neurology, even moderate drinking can decrease the size of your brain. A team of researchers led by Carol Ann Paul of Wellesley College asked 1,839 participants between the ages of 33 and 88 how much they drank per week and used MRI scans to measure their brain volumes. They found "a significant negative linear relationship between alcohol consumption and total cerebral brain volume." In other words, the more people drank, the more their brains shrunk.

As people age, their brains normally shrink about 2% every 10 years. However, Paul's results show that the brains of heavy drinkers (more than 14 drinks per week) were 1.5% smaller than those of non-drinkers. Moderate drinkers (8-14 drinks per week) also had smaller brain volumes than non-drinkers. Since decreased volume in certain areas of the brain is associated with memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease, these results raise some questions about the touted health benefits of moderate drinking. Those benefits are usually associated with the human cardiovascular system. However, it may be that what's good for your heart is not so good for your brain.

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