The more alcohol a person drinks, the less brain volume that person has according to new research. The study says alcohol consumption even at levels most would consider modest may pose risks to the brain.
Going from one to two drinks a day is also linked with changes in the brain equivalent to aging while heavier drinking was associated with an even greater toll.
An analysis of data from more than 36,000 adults, led by a team from the University of Pennsylvania, found that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was associated with shrinkage of the brain.
The link grew stronger the greater the level of alcohol consumption.
As an example, in 50-year-olds, as average drinking among individuals increases from one alcohol unit (about half a beer) a day to two units (a pint of beer or a glass of wine), there are associated changes in the brain equivalent to aging two years.
Going from two to three alcohol units at the same age was like aging three and a half years. The team reported their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Speaking on the findings, Gideon Nave, a corresponding author on the study and faculty member at Penn's Wharton School, said: "The fact that we have such a large sample size allows us to find subtle patterns, even between drinking the equivalent of half a beer and one beer a day."