Drinking alcohol associated with smaller brain volume

October 13, 2008

The more alcohol an individual drinks, the smaller his or her total brain volume, according to a report in the October issue of Archives of Neurology.

Brain volume decreases with age at an estimated rate of 1.9 percent per decade, accompanied by an increase in white matter lesions, according to background information in the article. Lower brain volumes and larger white matter lesions also occur with the progression of dementia and problems with thinking, learning and memory. Moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease; because the brain receives blood from this system, researchers have hypothesized that small amounts of alcohol may also attenuate age-related declines in brain volume.

Carol Ann Paul, M.S., of Wellesley College, Mass., and colleagues studied 1,839 adults (average age 60) who were part of the Framingham Offspring Study, which began in 1971 and includes children of the original Framingham Heart Study participants and their spouses. Between 1999 and 2001, participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a health examination. They reported the number of alcoholic drinks they consumed per week, along with their age, sex, education, height, body mass index and Framingham Stroke Risk Profile (which calculates stroke risk based on age, sex, blood pressure and other factors).

"Most participants reported low alcohol consumption, and men were more likely than women to be moderate or heavy drinkers," the authors write. "There was a significant negative linear relationship between alcohol consumption and total cerebral brain volume."

Although men were more likely to drink alcohol, the association between drinking and brain volume was stronger in women, they note. This could be due to biological factors, including women's smaller size and greater susceptibility to alcohol's effects.

"The public health effect of this study gives a clear message about the possible dangers of drinking alcohol," the authors write. "Prospective longitudinal studies are needed to confirm these results as well as to determine whether there are any functional consequences associated with increasing alcohol consumption. This study suggests that, unlike the associations with cardiovascular disease, alcohol consumption does not have any protective effect on brain volume."

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Study shows lithium chloride blunts brain damage linked to fetal alcohol syndrom

Related Stories

Study shows lithium chloride blunts brain damage linked to fetal alcohol syndrom

December 5, 2017
A single dose of lithium chloride, a drug used to treat bipolar disease and aggression, blocks the sleep disturbances, memory loss, and learning problems tied to fetal alcohol syndrome, new experiments in mice show.

Genetics study suggests that education reduces risk of Alzheimer's disease

December 7, 2017
The theory that education protects against Alzheimer's disease has been given further weight by new research from the University of Cambridge, funded by the European Union. The study is published today in the BMJ.

Sleeve gastrectomy, common weight-loss surgery, lowers women's tolerance to alcohol

November 20, 2017
Women who have had gastric sleeve surgery to lose weight may want to consider limiting the number of alcoholic drinks they consume post-surgery.

Women urged to give up alcohol before conceiving

November 14, 2017
Women who consume alcohol around the time of conception could be putting their male offspring at greater risk of obesity in later life.

NAFLD linked to smaller total cerebral brain volume

November 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with smaller total cerebral brain volume, according to a study published online Nov. 20 in JAMA Neurology.

Quickly treating mini-stroke can cut risk for future stroke

November 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—Prompt treatment of a mini-stroke could reduce the likelihood of having a full-blown stroke by roughly 80 percent, according to a new report.

Recommended for you

How defeating THOR could bring a hammer down on cancer

December 14, 2017
It turns out Thor, the Norse god of thunder and the Marvel superhero, has special powers when it comes to cancer too.

Researchers track muscle stem cell dynamics in response to injury and aging

December 14, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) describes the biology behind why muscle stem cells respond differently to aging or injury. The findings, published in Cell Stem Cell, ...

'Human chronobiome' study informs timing of drug delivery, precision medicine approaches

December 13, 2017
Symptoms and efficacy of medications—and indeed, many aspects of the human body itself—vary by time of day. Physicians tell patients to take their statins at bedtime because the related liver enzymes are more active during ...

Estrogen discovery could shed new light on fertility problems

December 12, 2017
Estrogen produced in the brain is necessary for ovulation in monkeys, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who have upended the traditional understanding of the hormonal cascade that leads to release ...

Time of day affects severity of autoimmune disease

December 12, 2017
Insights into how the body clock and time of day influence immune responses are revealed today in a study published in leading international journal Nature Communications. Understanding the effect of the interplay between ...

3-D printed microfibers could provide structure for artificially grown body parts

December 12, 2017
Much as a frame provides structural support for a house and the chassis provides strength and shape for a car, a team of Penn State engineers believe they have a way to create the structural framework for growing living tissue ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.