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Alcohol - Healthy Heart, Shrinks Brain

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, October 13, 2008 5:44 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Wine, Alcohol Consumption, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Living Well, Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia

Alcohol consumption shrinks brains, even low amounts.




IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ red wine/ author: Andre Karwath 


A small amount of alcohol consumption has been found to benefit the heart, but not the brain.

Even a small amount of alcohol may lead to brain shrinkage, a new study reports.

The study concludes if you drink a lot you’re going to hurt your brain. The effects are particularly noticeable in women, even those who consume a small amount of alcohol.

Participants came from the Framingham Offspring Study and were observed between 1999 and 2001.  None of the participants had any measurable dementia or Alzheimer’s.  

Researchers from Wellesley College in Massachusetts conducted MRI or magnetic resonance imaging on nearly 1,900 adults with an average age of 60.

Participants were put into groups depending on their alcohol consumption.

Low drinkers had one to seven drinks per week.  Most of the participants fell into this category. Moderate consumed eight to 14, and high consumers took in more than 14 drinks a week.

The more a person consumed the more their brain volume shrank with the difference observed more profoundly in women, even those who were the lighter drinkers.  Women are more easily affected by alcohol than men, partially because it is absorbed faster and their bodies are smaller. 

Rajesh Miranda, an associate professor of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics says, “It’s not surprising that alcohol would cause shrinkage of the brain. That kind of thing has been observed in animal models and smaller studies. The surprising thing is that they [the study authors] showed that even low levels of drinking are not protective, as people had seen in other cases.”

It was assumed that the moderate consumption of alcohol, which increased blood flow rates, would also benefit the brain.  Instead even moderate drinking effects were observed to be closer to those of heavy drinking, which has been linked to cognitive decline.

The studies are published in the Archives of Neurology. 

The brain has a tendency to decrease naturally as someone ages at a rate of about 1.9 percent per decade.  

The researchers are not ready to tell consumers to stop consuming wine. Swedish researchers this year found that alcohol may have a protective effect against rheumatoid arthritis (RA),  cutting its incidence by up to half.

And a natural compound, found in red wine, grapes, pomegranates and certain other foods may help to protect the heart and slow down the effects of aging, according to new study findings.

The study, published in the online Journal of the Public Library of Science, suggests that resveratrol slowed signs of aging in mice as effectively as a calorie-restricted diet, already proven to slow the decline in heart function associated with aging.  #

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