Study: Drinking alcohol shrinks brain size

A recent study shows that alcohol consumption, even in moderation, might shrink brain size.

The study, conducted by Carol Ann Paul at the Boston University School of Public Heath, tested 1,839 people ranging in age from 33 to 88. The participants were asked how much they drank per week and underwent an MRI procedure to measure their brain volume.

Results show a 1.5 percent difference in the total brain volume of a non-drinker to that of a heavy drinker. Heavy drinkers were defined as those who consumed 14 or more drinks a week.

Moderate drinking, which includes the amounts that have been shown to prevent heart disease, also resulted in a smaller brain volume than that of a non-drinker.

"There was a significant negative linear relationship between alcohol consumption and total cerebral brain volume," the authors of the study wrote.

"I don't think it is going to change [what I do]," said Bryant Kubik, a junior in communications. "As you get older, your brain capacity is going to shrink anyway."

Research shows that as people age, the brain sees a small amount of natural brain shrinkage, about 2 percent for every 10 years, but greater amounts of shrinkage in certain areas of the brain have been linked to diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Kubik said he was not surprised by the results of the study. "If you drink a case of Natty Light a day, you're probably not going to be doing too good," he said.

Kubik and Ben Fox, a senior in theater, agreed that this information was not going to have much of an effect on college life.

"In a college atmosphere they're still going to do what they do," Fox said. "They'll still party and jump in Mirror Lake on Michigan Week and I'll probably be one of them."

Seventy-one percent of OSU students drink once a week or less, according to statistics from the Student Wellness Center.

Participants in the study reported low overall alcohol consumption and that men were more likely to be moderate or heavy drinkers than women.

Despite men being more likely to drink, the association between drinking and brain shrinkage was stronger among women.

The findings are published in the October issue of Archives of Neurology.