October 26, 2012
Is Moderate Drinking As Bad For Brain As Binge Drinking?
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
There have been numerous scientific studies that show how a glass or two of red wine can help promote cardiovascular and brain health. However, a new study by Rutgers University indicates that there is a fine line between moderate and binge drinking.
“Moderate drinking can become binge drinking without the person realizing it,” lead author Megan Anderson said in a press release.“In the short term there may not be any noticeable motor skills or overall functioning problems, but in the long term this type of behavior could have an adverse effect on learning and memory.”
The team modeled moderate to heavy drinking in humans using rodents that reached a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent and found that brain cell production was affected negatively.
They discovered that at this level of intoxication, the number of nerve cells in the hippocampus of the brain were reduced by about 40 percent compared to those in the abstinent group of rodents. This part of the brain is known to be necessary for some types of new learning.
Alcohol intake was not enough to impair the motor skills of either male or female rats, or prevent them from associative learning in the short-term. However, Anderson said that this substantial decrease in brain cell numbers over time could have profound effects on the structural plasticity of the adult brain because these new cells communicate with other neurons to regulate brain health.
“If this area of your brain was affected every day over many months and years, eventually you might not be able to learn how to get somewhere new or to learn something new about your life,” Anderson, a graduate fellow in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, said in the press release. “It´s something that you might not even be aware is occurring.”
Men who drink 14 drinks a week and women who drink seven are considered at-risk drinkers, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). This group says that 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involved adults who were 26 years old or older.
“This research indicates that social or daily drinking may be more harmful to brain health than what is now believed by the general public,” she said in the release.