At INDY Neurofeedback, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, especially this time of year, but – contrary to what you may have heard, even one glass of wine a night is not a good thing – at least as far as your brain is concerned.
Many adults drink a glass of red wine a night with the understanding that it is good for the heart. And yes, studies have been telling us that moderate wine consumption may be better for your health than heavy drinking or abstaining from alcohol completely. But what does your brain have to say about it?
It turns out that even moderate alcohol intake (defined by researchers as seven to fourteen glasses of alcohol per week) may damage the brain over time. To reach this conclusion, researchers in the UK followed 550 people over 30 years, tracking:
- weekly alcohol intake
- cognitive, or thinking abilities, periodically
- MRI brain scans at the end of the study
The results? A bit frightening, frankly. The more people drank, the more atrophy, or shrinking, was found in their brain’s hippocampal region. Since the hippocampus is an area involved in memory, this was significant. Even moderate drinkers were three times more likely to have hippocampus atrophy than people who abstained.
What about light drinkers? Those who drank less than seven ounces per week (about three-and-a-half glasses of wine,) didn’t have significant brain changes. But, importantly — and contrary to what we thought we knew — they didn’t experience any health benefits.
The most severe damage, not surprisingly, was found among heavy drinkers, or those who had over 30 ounces (more than about 15 glasses of wine) per week.
How to put this in perspective? Previous studies linking health benefits to moderate drinking may not have provided a complete picture. It is difficult to sort out – was it the alcohol is providing those benefits or were the people who drank only moderately simply healthier?
But, with researchers having tracked so very many people, over the course of so many years, revealing at least some evidence of physical and cognitive changes, at INDY Neurofeedback, we’re recommending that these study results should be taken (ahem) – soberly.
What does this mean for you? If you drink one drink per day during the week, and two drinks a day on the weekend, you have a higher risk of hippocampal atrophy, according to this study.
These findings contradict popular knowledge, previous studies, and the national recommendations on safe alcohol consumption. The study’s authors conclude that it “calls into question the current US guidelines.”
The bottom line: If you’re going to drink, limit yourself to one serving daily or less. Your brain will benefit from this discipline.