Heavy alcohol consumption impairs cognitive performance with both immediate
and long-term deleterious effects on the brain’s anatomy, neurological, and psychological
functioning. Although there are some studies that suggest that moderate
alcohol consumption, especially red wine, provides some protection against Alzheimer
disease, existing data do not support the practice of initiating or maintaining
consumption of alcohol as a way to prevent dementia.
A 2017 study in the British Medical Journal reinforces the evidence that for brain
health, it is best to avoid all alcohol consumption. The study assessed the alcohol
consumption and cognition of 550 British civil servants over 30 years and found
that the amount of alcohol that can be consumed without brain damage is lower than
previously thought, and there is no cognitive advantage to any level of drinking.
The study considered links between various levels as defined by units of alcohol
use, cognition, and brain structure. The study defined a unit as 10 ml of pure alcohol.
About two units are in a large beer, 9 per bottle of wine, and one in a 25 ml
hard liquor shot.
Alcohol use was found to be associated with impaired white matter microstructure,
and reduced right-sided hippocampal volume in a dose-dependent manner. Even
men who drank moderately, defined as 14 to 21 units of alcohol a week, were three
times more likely to have hippocampal atrophy than abstainers. Very light drinking,
1-6 units a week, conferred no protection relative to abstinence. Higher alcohol
consumption was associated with reduced white matter integrity and a faster decline
in verbal fluency.
The study found that alcohol use by 24.6% of women and 40.3% of men over the
30-year period of the study averaged 14 units (112gm) or greater per week placing
a high proportion of the study group at three times the odds of hippocampal atrophy
and, on average, and compared to abstainers, suffering a 17% greater decline in verbal
fluency over 30 years. A commentary on the study estimated that alcohol-related
brain damage accounts for possibly 10% of early-onset dementia and potentially
10% to 24% of dementia cases in nursing homes.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.