UCL research finds that moderate drinking can lead to a decline in memory

Does this mean no more Jägerbombs at Loop?

A research study between UCL and Oxford University has found that moderate consumption of alcohol might affect the area in the brain associated with memory and spatial navigation. The research has been published in the British Medical Journal.

The research involved a mixture of male and female drinkers, whose drinking habits varied from heavy, to moderate, to non-drinkers. All participants were studied over a thirty year period.

Cognitive functions of the participants were measured via a range of tasks on repeated occasions between 1985 and 2015, in addition to the structure of their brains being measured through MRI scans.

The heavier drinkers were found to be at greater risk of hippocampal atrophy; a form of brain damage that is linked to a deterioration of memory and spatial navigation. Hippocampal atrophy has also been regarded as characteristic of Alzheimer’s.

Consumption of thirty units per week had the highest risk of hippocampal atrophy, but it was found that even moderate comsumers of alcohol – of between fourteen and twenty-one units per week – would be more likely to suffer from it than if they had chosen not to drink.

However this type of brain damage association was found in men and not in women. The Independent speculated that this: ‘may be the result of a higher male participation in the study, or because women reported drinking less than their male counterparts.’

Once factors such as age, sex, education, smoking, social activity, blood pressure, and history of cardiovascular events were taken into account, researchers found that drinkers were often found to possess a smaller hippocampus, with a greater effect on the right side of the brain.

Due to the study being an observational one, the researchers couldn’t be sure to draw firm conclusions on the alcohol consumption being a direct cause of the memory deterioration; but the team behind the research felt sure that the findings could have significant health implications.