Just one pint of beer or average glass of wine a day may begin to shrink the overall volume of the brain, a new study has found, and the damage worsens as the number of daily drinks rises.
On average, people at age 50 who drank a pint of beer or 6-ounce glass of wine a day in the last month had brains that appeared two years older than those who only drank a half of a beer, according to a study, published in the journal Nature.
The brains of people that said they drank three alcohol units a day had reductions in both white and gray matter that looked as if they had added 3.5 years to the ages of their brains.
The brains of nondrinkers who began consuming an average of one alcohol unit (10 milligrams or 8 grams of pure alcohol) a day showed the equivalent of a half a year of aging, according to the study.
In comparison, drinking four alcohol units a day aged a person’s brain by more than 10 years.
Doctors used to believe that moderate amounts of alcohol could provide a health benefit, especially to the heart and the brain, but recent research has called that assumption into question.
The report analyzed data from more than 36,000 people who took part in the UK Biobank study. People in the study had provided information on the number of drinks they had each week in the previous year and had undergone an MRI brain scan. Researchers compared their scans with images of typical aging brains.