New study reveals that drinking can shrink your brain

Having four drinks a day can age a person's brain considerably over time

By Kelly McClure

Nights & Weekends Editor

Published March 4, 2022 10:04PM (EST)

Two pints of beer bitter on wooden barrel in pub. (Getty Images/Adermark Media)
Two pints of beer bitter on wooden barrel in pub. (Getty Images/Adermark Media)

Just in time for the weekend, a new study reveals that daily consumption of alcohol can considerably degrade a person's brain over time. The study, published today in the journal Nature, provides data indicating that people who drank a pint of beer, or a 6-oz glass of wine on a daily basis over a month long sample period had brains that appeared to be two years older than those who only drank half a beer during that time.

"It's not linear. It gets worse the more you drink," first author of the study Remi Daviet, an assistant professor of marketing in the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a statement included in a report by CNN

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Alcohol researcher Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington weighed in on the study saying "a problem in this study is that they only have information on people's drinking habits for the one year prior to the (brain) imaging," adding "I think this is a major limitation of the study as it's likely that the cumulative consumption of alcohol throughout one's lifetime is associated with the brain, not just the level of consumption right before the images were taken." 

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The study categorizes heavy alcohol consumption as being three or more drinks a day for women, and four or more drinks a day for men, further showing that consumption at these levels caused reductions in both white and gray matter of the brain, essentially giving the appearance of a 3.5 year age acceleration. 

The data for the study was pulled from 36,000 people which study coauthor Gideon Nave, an assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania commented is "by far the largest investigation of the topic."

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By Kelly McClure

Kelly McClure is a journalist and fiction writer who lives in New Orleans. She is Salon's Nights and Weekends Editor covering daily news, politics and culture. Her work has been featured in Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Vice, and elsewhere. She is the author of Something is Always Happening Somewhere.

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