There are many reasons to avoid drinking too much wine or beer, especially since alcohol can be harmful to your health in various ways. However, now you may want to cut out alcohol completely – or as much as possible – because a recent study showed that even drinking a moderate amount can cause your brain to age faster.
In the July 2022 study, published in OLP Medicine, the researchers collected data from 20,965 participants whose average age was 55 years. While 2.7% of those involved did not drink alcohol, the remaining participants drank an average of 18 units per week. To put that into perspective, 18 units is roughly equal to six tall glasses of wine. If you prefer beer, you’ll be interested to know that it’s the same as seven and a half cans of your favorite beer. It turned out to be too much when it comes to keeping the brain healthy.
“In the largest study to date, we found that drinking more than 7 units of alcohol per week was associated with iron accumulation in the brain,” said the University of Oxford. Anya Topiwala, which was behind the study, according to EurekAlert! “Higher brain iron is in turn linked to poorer cognitive performance. Iron accumulation may underlie alcohol-related cognitive decline.”
“Researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption was associated with greater iron accumulation in the basal ganglia, a group of brain regions that help us perform cognitive, emotional and movement-related functions” , Emma Laing, PhD, RDNclinical professor at the University of Georgia and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says Eat this, not that!. “Higher basal ganglia iron levels were associated with lower measures of cognitive function.”
“The brain is very sensitive to changes in iron metabolism,” says Laing, explaining that iron in the brain causes cognitive decline. “Abnormally high iron content in the brain has been associated with oxidative stress, which leads to neuronal damage and cell death.”
Tips for reducing alcohol consumption
If you want to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink to avoid aging your brain, Laing says you might want to “choose drinks that are lightly alcoholic, non-alcoholic, or alcohol-free.” Beyond that, “having a glass or two of water with every drink will help curb overconsumption, as will avoiding drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.”
However, “while some people might like to replace their alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic alternatives, those suffering from or recovering from alcohol addiction are warned not to try them, as the alternatives may increase cravings. to drink alcohol”. Indeed, Laing notes that “the health consequences of alcohol consumption are highly dependent on the individual, their state of health, and the medications they take.”
Finally, Laing says, “If you tend to drink excessively or notice that alcohol is causing problems in your life, counseling and recovery programs would be recommended. Your primary care provider can also advise you on appropriate resources. If you don’t drink, starting this habit is not recommended.”
Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers, among other things, lifestyle, food and nutrition news. Read more