A new report showed that alcohol intake is associated with brain volume. As an individual drinks more alcohol, his brain volume also decreases substantially.
The volume of the brain normally decreases at an estimated rate of 1.9 percent per decade of life added to the individual. This decrease comes with a gradual increase in white matter lesions. The existence of lower brain volumes combined with larger white matter lesions is indicative of a progression of certain brain conditions including dementia and problems related to cognition and learning.
Drinking alcohol in moderate amounts has been previously linked to a minimized risk of developing cardiovascular disease later on. And because the brain receives blood through the system, the researchers came up with a hypothesis that the small amounts of alcohol may also help reduce the decline in brain volume.
The study was conducted by Carol Ann Paul and her colleagues from the Wellesley College, Massachusetts. They studied 1,839 adults who participated in the Framingham Offspring Study that started in 1971. The subjects of the 1971 study included the children of the original Framingham Heart Study participants.
The respondents went through magnetic resonance imaging and health examinations from 1999 to 2001. A survey of their drinking lifestyle was also conducted with reports of frequency of alcohol intake as well as the amount of intake. Other characteristics including the sex, education, age and height of the subjects were also recorded along with each subject’s Framingham Stroke Risk Profile.
According to the authors, “most participants reported low alcohol consumption, and men were more likely than women to be moderate or heavy drinkers. There was a significant negative linear relationship between alcohol consumption and total cerebral brain volume.”
The researchers further said that the associations are more pronounced in women than in men even when the latter are much more likely to drink. This is probably because of differences in biological framework such as the greater vulnerability of women to the effects of alcohol. The study works to provide a clearer explanation of the potential negative repercussions of drinking. The authors further recommended that more studies be conducted to confirm the results of their research mainly to identify whether or not there are functional consequences that can arise when alcohol consumption is greatly increased.
The study shows that alcohol intake does not in any way elicit a protective effect on the brain’s volume.
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