Alcohol Consumption Linked to Decline in Brain Health and Mental Function

Alcohol Consumption Linked to Decline in Brain Health and Mental Function

Even moderate alcohol consumption can bring about a faster decline in brain health and mental function, according to a new study by the University of Oxford and University College London, both in the U.K. “Alcohol consumption is a recognized global public health issue,” according to the World Health Organization, and “five percent of the global burden of disease and injury is attributable to alcohol.”

World Health researchers explained that the link between heavy drinking and adverse brain health – including dementia and degeneration of brain tissue – has already been well established. The research team decided to investigate whether this link extends to moderate alcohol consumption as well.

When all the data was analyzed, researchers found that higher alcohol intake over the 30-year period was tied to a higher risk of atrophy or tissue degeneration in the hippocampus – the part of the brain that is important for spatial orientation and memory. Language fluency also declined faster with higher alcohol consumption.

Because alcohol consumption affects such a large proportion of the population, the implications for public health could be significant. A consulting neuropsychiatrist from Royal Edinburgh Hospital noted that the findings support “the argument that drinking habits many regard as normal have adverse consequences for health.”

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