Heavy alcohol consumption is known to lead to an endless array of problems, including damage to the brain. But scientists (and imbibers) have paid less mind on the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on the brain.
However, in a recent study in the British Medical Journal, researchers reported that those who drank five glass of wine or four pints of beer a week showed a reduction in the volume of their hippocampi, an area of the brain associated with memory and learning.
Basically, the study shows that moderate drinking can have a negative impact on brain structure and memory. With 30 years worth of data, the researchers found that an increase in alcohol consumption was associated with a greater chance of developing hippocampal atrophy, which is damage to the hippocampus, according to Popular Science.
That’s a sobering conclusion: The hippocampus is the part of the brain that deals with memory and spatial navigation.
While heavy or excessive drinking still has been found to cause a greater amount of brain damage, those who drank moderately were still three times more likely to develop damage to those brain structures than the subjects who didn’t drink at all.
Before anyone pours their martinis down the nearest drain, the findings do not necessarily mean that anyone who has a few drinks a week is at risk for brain damage. Opting for an observational study, researchers did not run a controlled experiment, but instead relied on data collects as patients went about their normal lives.
Scientists will need additional data from both past and future studies to get a full picture of the longterm affect of all types of drinking.