Excessive alcohol intake is linked to a higher risk of numerous diseases and health conditions. In order to avoid these risks, people are advised to keep the alcohol consumption moderate, but that isn’t entirely safe either. The most recent study showed that even moderate drinking can lead to cognitive decline. Keep reading to find out more about this subject.
Alcohol Intake And Brain Health
For quite some time, moderate alcohol consumption was associated with better brain and heart health. Of course, red wine proved to be more beneficial than other alcoholic beverages. It looks like this may not be entirely correct because an extensive analysis carried out by researchers at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital made an important discovery.
They conducted a review of earlier studies on this topic and found that moderate drinking can, in fact, lead to cognitive decline. For the purpose of the research, data from a study that tracked 550 healthy men and women from 1985 to 2015 was used. The median age of participants was 43.
To get accurate results, scientists considered various factors including education, age, social class, physical and social activity, and medical history of participants. Even after controlling for these parameters, results remained the same – moderate drinking contributes to cognitive decline.
Study results were published in the BMJ, and they showed that although the connection was the strongest for heavy drinkers it was also found in moderate alcohol drinkers as well. Moderate drinkers were defined as those who consumed between 14 and 21 units per week or about 7 to 10 drinks. By the end of the research period, they were 3 times more likely to develop hippocampal atrophy as those who never drink. Hippocampal atrophy is an early marker of Alzheimer’s disease. The size of the hippocampus is linked to memory, but many other factors can cause hippocampal atrophy. Therefore, this study doesn’t claim that moderate alcohol intake causes dementia automatically.
A Wake-Up Call
The study also showed that moderate drinkers exhibited a 17% decline in language fluency which is a measure of executive functioning. Scientists explain that their findings serve as a wake-up call for all moderate drinkers who think they’re safe just because they don’t engage in heavy or binge drinking.
So, why did previous research showed positive effects of moderate alcohol drinking on brain health? According to these recent findings, the problem with previous research was that it didn’t control for key parameters such as physical activity and IQ levels of participants. When the vital variables are taken into consideration, the harmful effect of alcohol comes into perspective.
Bearing in mind that we can prevent or delay cognitive decline, researchers stress the importance of rethinking how we view casual drinking. Although we know that high alcohol intake is bad, moderate consumption gives us a false sense of security. That is why we fail to realize it is a bad influence on our brain health. Luckily, correcting this behavior can improve cognitive functioning and prevent problems that come with cognitive decline.
Tips To Prevent Cognitive Decline
- Exercise regularly
- Read and do other mind-engaging activities
- Quit smoking
- Eat a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Get enough sleep
- Manage stress
Previous research showed that moderate alcohol drinking protects us from cognitive decline, but the latest study debunks those claims. Research, published in the BMJ, avoided pitfalls that earlier works faced – they included key variables to get the most accurate results. Their findings showed that moderate drinking contributes to hippocampal atrophy and affects language fluency.