Just four drinks a week changes your brain: new study
Just four drinks a week may be changing your brain — and not in a way you might like.
According to new research, just four drinks a week increases brain iron levels in multiple areas of the brain. The researchers defined four drinks a week as “moderate drinking.”
Increased brain iron levels in multiple basal ganglia regions is
“associated with poorer scores on tests of executive function, fluid intelligence, and reaction speed,” researchers reported in PLoS Medicine.
The research was conducted by Anya Topiwala, PhD, of the University of Oxford in England, and other co-authors. 21,000 people in a U.K. “Biobank cohort” were the subjects of the study.
“This is the first study, to our knowledge, demonstrating higher brain iron in moderate drinkers,” Topiwala told MedPage Today. “The findings offer a potential pathway through which alcohol can cause cognitive decline.
“Establishing the pathway is important as it may offer clues as to ways we can intervene to reduce the harm,” she said. “For iron, we actually have medicines — iron chelators — that could reduce levels.”
A physician associated with the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia cautioned to MedPage that the “findings, though, are largely limited to the basal ganglia, collections of brain cells that are involved in motor control, executive functions, and emotions.”
Another new study from Carnegie Mellon University recently found that drinking alone during adolescence and early adulthood strongly affects one’s risk for alcohol use disorder later in life, particularly for women.
"Most young people who drink do it with others in social settings, but a substantial minority of young people are drinking alone. Solitary drinking is a unique and robust risk factor for future alcohol use disorder," said Kasey Creswell, associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon, the study’s lead author. "Even after we account for well-known risk factors, like binge drinking, frequency of alcohol use, socioeconomic status and gender, we see a strong signal that drinking alone as a young person predicts alcohol problems in adulthood."
Excessive alcohol use contributes to three million deaths globally each year, according to Carnegie Mellon.