Risk of Brain Atrophy Reduced by Drinking Alcohol

The risk of brain atrophy is reduced by drinking in moderation. The alcohol can be in the form of wine, beer, or spirits.

Brain Atrophy

Brain or cerebral atrophy is commonly caused by brain diseases. Atrophy or shrinkage is a loss of cells. In brain atrophy there is a loss of neurons and the connections between them.

Atrophy of the brain can be generalized. In this case, the entire brain has shrunk. If the atrophy is local it affects a specific area of the brain. In this case, it affects the functions controlled by that area of the brain.

Sometimes both sides of the brain are affected by the shrinkage. In this case, conscious thought and voluntary processes might be impaired. The disease involved determines the parts of the brain affected and the rate of shrinkage.

Many diseases can cause brain atrophy.

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Infectious diseases. (AIDS, neurosyphillis, encephalitis, and others.)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Pick’s disease
  • Fronto-temporal dementia
  • Leukodystrophies. E.g. Krabbe disease
  • Mitochondrial encephalomyopathies. E.g.. Kearns-Sayre syndrome

Many diseases that cause brain atrophy are linked to dementia, seizures, and aphasias.

Dementia is a progressive reduction of memory and intellectual function. Usually impaired is the ability to think abstractly, to learn, to plan, and to organize.

Seizures can appear as convulsions, disorientation, loss of consciousness, or repetitive movement.

Aphasias are problems in understanding or in speaking. Receptive aphasia causes impaired understanding. Expressive aphasia causes problems communicating verbally.

Risk of Brain Atrophy

risk of brain atrophyLight and moderate drinking reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia. Heavy drinking increases the risk.

A study looked at drinking and the risk of brain atrophy. It used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify brain atrophy. Studied were 589 residents of New York City. They averaged 80 years of age.

Light to moderate drinking greatly reduced the risk of brain atrophy brain atrophy compared to abstainers. This is consistent with other research findings.

Source: Gu, Y., et al.  Alcohol intake and brain structure in a multiethnic elderly cohort. Clin Nut., 2014, 33, 662-7.