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Increased Alcohol Intake Linked to Small Brain Size

Alcohol consumption linearly and inversely related to brain size

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Unlike studies in the cardiovascular literature demonstrating a beneficial effect, moderate alcohol consumption was not protective against age-related differences in total cerebral brain volume (TCBV) and was, in fact, associated with decreases in TCBV, according to a report in the October issue of the Archives of Neurology.

Carol Ann Paul, of Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., and colleagues examined the influence of alcohol intake on brain volume using 1,839 subjects from the Framingham Offspring Study who underwent MRI of the brain between 1999 and 2001. Multivariate linear regression models were used to evaluate the association between five categories of alcohol consumption and TCBV, adjusting for multiple covariates.

Alcohol consumption was generally low, but men were more likely to be moderate or heavy drinkers, the researchers report. The investigators found a significant negative linear relationship between alcohol consumption and TCBV, but this finding was modified by gender. The relationship between alcohol consumption and TCBV was stronger in women than in men.

"In contrast to studies on cardiovascular disease, this study found that moderate alcohol consumption was not protective against normal age-related differences in total brain volume," Paul and colleagues conclude. "Instead, higher levels of alcohol consumption were consistently associated with smaller brain volume after adjusting for covariates." The authors add that "the public health effect of this study gives a clear message about the possible dangers of drinking alcohol."

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