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Nutrition, Vitamins & Supplements for Seniors

Daily Drinking Can Be Risky: Fine Line Between Binge and Moderate Drinking

Rutgers study finds moderate consumption decreases number of new brain cells

By Robin Lally

wine

There's a fine line between moderate and binge drinking.

Oct. 25, 2012 - Drinking a couple of glasses of wine each day has generally been considered a good way to promote cardiovascular and brain health. But a new Rutgers University study indicates that there is a fine line between moderate and binge drinking – a risky behavior that can decrease the making of adult brain cells by as much as 40 percent.

In a study posted online and scheduled to be published in the journal Neuroscience on November 8, lead author Megan Anderson, a graduate student working with Tracey J. Shors, Professor II in Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology, reported that moderate to binge drinking – drinking less during the week and more on the weekends – significantly reduces the structural integrity of the adult brain.

“Moderate drinking can become binge drinking without the person realizing it,” said Anderson. “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.”

Tracey Shors

Tracey Shors

Shors and Anderson worked with postdoctoral fellow Miriam Nokia from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland to model moderate to heavy drinking in humans using rodents that reached a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent – the legal driving limit in the United States and many other countries – and found that brain cell production was affected negatively.

The researchers discovered that at this level of intoxication in rats – comparable to about 3-4 drinks for women and five drinks for men – the number of nerve cells in the hippocampus of the brain were reduced by nearly 40 percent compared to those in the abstinent group of rodents. The hippocampus is a part of the brain where the new neurons are made and is also known to be necessary for some types of new learning.

Megan Anderson

Megan Anderson

 

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Non-Alcoholic Red Wine Does a Better Job of Reducing High Blood Pressure

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More links to reports on alcohol consumption below news story.

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This level of 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.

Still, Anderson said, 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,”said Anderson, a graduate fellow in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology. “It’s something that you might not even be aware is occurring.”

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, men who drink 14 drinks a week and women who drink seven are considered at-risk drinkers. Although college students commonly binge drink, according to the institute, 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involved adults age 26 and 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.


Problem Drinking in Older Adults - opens in new windowProblem Drinking in Older Adults

[4 min 34 sec]

Click to watch this video: NIH SeniorHealth
Transcript, Video help


Links to More Archived Stories on Alcohol Consumption

Antioxidants Used as Anti-Aging Treatment May Also Kill Cancer Cells; Be Better Than Chemo

Three antioxidants - resveratrol, genistein and baicalein - are used or studied as anti-aging treatments and to treat heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteopenia and osteoporosis and chronic hepatitis; resveratrol found in red wine is in 44 clinical trials as potential treatment for even Alzheimer’s disease - March 20, 2012


Frequently Asked Questions About Alcohol

   ● What is a standard drink in the United States?

A standard drink is equal to 13.7 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in
      > 12-ounces of beer.
      > 8-ounces of malt liquor.
      > 5-ounces of wine.
      > 1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey).

   ● Is beer or wine safer to drink than liquor?

No. One 12-ounce beer has about the same amount of alcohol as one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. It is the amount of alcohol consumed that affects a person most, not the type of alcoholic drink.

   ● What does moderate drinking mean?
There is no one definition of moderate drinking, but generally the term is used to describe a lower-risk pattern of drinking. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,1 drinking in moderation is defined as having no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. This definition is referring to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days.

>> More at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Women Consuming Moderate Amount of Alcohol Significantly Lower Stroke Risk

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Red Wine a Day Produces Differing Heart Protection for Different People

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Jan. 31, 2012


Low Levels of Alcohol Consumption Linked With Small Increased Risk of Breast Cancer

Study also confirms drinking two drinks a day jumps risk 51% - See video - Nov. 1, 2011


Light Alcohol Drinking Decreases Cancer Risk; More Frequency Jumps Cancer Death Rate

Large study of cancer victims investigates alcohol consumption and cancer mortality - see Q&A by CDC on alcohol consumption below story

Oct. 20, 2011


Heavy Liquor Drinking May Increase Risk of Death from Pancreatic Cancer

Significant risk associated with 3 drinks daily for men, 4 for women; risk not noted for wine or beer - March 14, 2011

Alcohol Consumption by Elderly Reduces Risk of Dementia, Alzheimer’s

Most studies of senior citizens in last 31 years show association between moderate alcohol consumption and better cognitive function and reduced risk of dementia

March 7, 2011


Heavy Alcohol Drinking Spurs High-Grade Prostate Cancer, Stops Prevention by Finasteride

Four or more drinks on 5 or more days per week doubles risk of high-grade prostate cancer

July 13, 2009


Senior Citizens See Almost 40% Drop in Dementia Risk with Moderate Alcohol Drinking

Study of seniors age 75 and older confirms benefits of alcohol in preventing dementia that had been proven for middle aged adults - July 13, 2009


Older People Reduce Death Risk by 25 Percent with Daily Moderate Alcohol Consumption

Large study of people over age 55 says any way you look at it, moderate alcohol is beneficial

March 30, 2009


No Matter if Wine is Red or White, it Can Increase Beast Cancer Risk for Women

Large study shows breast cancer risk increase the same from wine, beer or liquor

March 9, 2009


Older People More Impaired by Social Drinking, More Likely to Think They are OK

It's not clear why but it seems to be a difference in alcohol metabolism: alcohol may affect the brain of older adults differently.

March 5, 2009


Million Women Study Finds Even Moderate Alcohol Consumption Increases Cancer Risk

Risk increases with increase in alcohol consumption and smoking, regardless of alcohol source, i.e., wine, spirits, etc.

Feb. 25, 2009


Drinking Alcohol May Protect Hearts in Older People but It Shrinks Their Brains

The more alcohol consumed, the smaller the total brain volume; stronger in women

Oct. 13, 2008


Red Wine Lowers Lung Cancer Risk in Older Men, Especially Smokers

Two percent lower lung cancer risk with each glass of red wine consumed per month

Oct. 7, 2008


Resverstrol in Red Wine Prevents Breast Cancer Development in Laboratory Study

Prevents first step when estrogen starts process that leads to cancer by blocking formation of DNA adducts

July 7, 2008


Resveratrol in Red Wine May Achieve Same Longevity Results as Starvation Dieting

Study important because it suggests that resveratrol and caloric restriction may govern the same master genetic pathways related to aging

June 4, 2008


Another Study Points to Higher Breast Cancer Risk from Alcohol for Older Women

The more older (postmenopausal) women drink the greater the risk

April 14, 2008


New Study Confirms Red Wine Antioxidant Kills Cancer

Researchers pinpoint how resveratrol induces pancreatic cancer cell death

March 26, 2008


Red Wine Element Reverses Pathways of Obesity That Cause Age-Related Diseases

Resveratrol previously found to extend lifespan of other organisms may help against heart disease, diabetes

November 2, 2006


Wine, Beer, Liquor It Doesn't Matter – Too Much Jumps Breast Cancer Risk

Three drinks of alcohol a day is as bad as smoking a pack a day

Sept. 27, 2007


Moderate Drinking May Boost Memory and Protect Against Alzheimer's

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