The effects of alcohol on brain ageing can depend on various factors such as the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption, age of the individual, and genetic susceptibility. While moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with some health benefits, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to harmful effects on the brain and accelerate brain ageing.
Chronic heavy drinking can lead to brain shrinkage and cognitive decline, which may be associated with a higher risk of developing dementia later in life. Alcohol damages brain cells and can cause inflammation, oxidative stress, and disruptions in neurotransmitter function, which can contribute to cognitive impairment. In addition, heavy drinking over an extended period can increase the risk of developing conditions such as alcoholic liver disease, which can further contribute to brain damage. Overall, excessive drinking can have detrimental effects on brain ageing and cognitive function. It is important to consume alcohol in moderation and maintain a healthy lifestyle to minimize the risk of alcohol-related brain damage.
A recent review by Sullivan et al 2022 in the scientific journal Alcohol focused on the aging of the brains of men and women with alcohol use disorder. The authors stressed that studies on the accelerated aging of specific brain structures, such as the frontal cortex, in people with alcohol use disorder, along with other studies on premature aging of hippocampal and thalamic volumes suggest that both cognitive and memory decline will arise and accelerated with aging, and contribute to age-related dementia.
The study was published in: Sullivan EV, Pfefferbaum A. Alcohol use disorder: Neuroimaging evidence for accelerated aging of brain morphology and hypothesized contribution to age-related dementia. Alcohol. 2023 Mar;107:44-55. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2022.06.002. PMID: 35781021.