Saturday, July 4, 2009

Alcohol=Brain Shrinkage

For years, we have believed that consumption of large amounts of alcohol could lead to various forms of brain altering. But, now, based upon a report from, we have learned the following:

According to CNN, any amount of alcohol can decrease brain size!! People who drink alcohol – even the moderate amounts that help prevent heart disease – have a smaller brain volume than those who do not.

While a certain amount of brain shrinkage is normal with age, greater amounts in some parts of the brain have been linked to dementia. According to Carol Ann Paul, who conducted the study at the Boston University School of Public Health, “Decline in brain volume – estimated a 2 percent per decade – is a natural part of aging”. She had hoped to find that alcohol might protect against such brain shrinkage. “However, we did not find the protective effect,” said Paul. “In fact, any level of alcohol consumption resulted in a decline in brain volume.”

In the study, Paul and colleagues looked at 1839 healthy people with an average age of about 61. The patients underwent an MRI of the brain and reported how much the tippled. Overall, the more alcohol consumed, the smaller the brain volume, with abstainers having a higher brain volume than former drinkers, light drinkers 1-7 drinks per week), moderate drinkers (8-14 drinks per week), and heavy drinkers 14 or more drinks per week).

In women, even moderate drinkers had a smaller brain volume than abstainers or former drinkers. It’s not clear why even modest amounts of alcohol may shrink the brain, although alcohol is “known to dehydrate tissues, and constant dehydration can have negative effects on any sensitive tissue”, said Paul.

Said Dr. Petros Levounis, “We always knew that alcohol at higher dosages results in shrinking of the brain and cognitive deficit. What is new with this article is that it shows brain shrinking at lower doses of alcohol.”

So, as always, adults can make adult decisions based upon your lifestyle, needs, and desires. But, if you ever need another reminder as to why alcohol must be kept away from your kids, re-read this article again!

Be careful around the home and keep the alcohol away from the kids’ reach! After all, we want our kids’ brains to be large and strong when selecting our nursing homes someday!

Paul W. Reeves

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