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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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what we eat, drink impacts dementia
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