Excessive alcohol consumption can cause shrinkage of the brain, according to research by American scientists.

A study carried out at the Academy of Neurology in Boston, Massachusetts found that a large and constant consumption of alcohol can cause your brain to shrink by up to 1.6%.

Researchers scanned 1,839 people, aged 34 to 88 and concluded that ‘greater alcohol consumption was negatively correlated with brain volume.’

Those scanned were split into various categories: non-drinkers, former drinkers, low drinkers (one to seven drinks per week), moderate drinkers (eight to 14 drinks per week), or high drinkers (more than 14 drinks per week).

The MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans were used to measure brain volume, a hypothetical measure of brain ageing.

People in the study who had over 14 drinks per week had an average 1.6% reduction in the ratio of brain volume to skull size, compared to those who didn’t drink. Brain volume decreased 0.25% on average for every increase in drinking category.

Study author Carol Ann Paul said that the inverse relationship between drinking and brain volume was slightly larger in women than in men. Indeed, drinking heavy amounts of alcohol seemed to have the largest negative impact on brain volume for women in their 70s.

Paul acknowledged that alcohol had a ‘beneficial effect in reducing cardiovascular disease in people who consume low to moderate amounts.’

Written by Panos Kakaviatos