You’ve noticed that you aren’t recovering as well after a night of drinking. Your brain feels clouded and it is harder than ever to follow along with meetings and conversations. It almost feels as if your brain is shrinking.
New research has revealed a negative association between alcohol intake and brain matter volume. This relation appears to be non-linear, with cutbacks in drinking leading to a reduction in risk for harm. Excessive drinking is well-known for the serious health problems it can cause, but the effects of mild and moderate drinking are less clear.
Despite this lack of clarity, some suggest that cutting back on alcohol can help to protect our bodies and minds. With so much unknown about how alcohol affects us, there may be great benefit to be gained by reducing overall consumption as a preventative measure.
Although most people are aware of the risks associated with excessive drinking, many fail to cut back on their alcohol consumption. There's an abundance of research that suggests long-term alcohol abuse has devastating consequences and can lead to
- heart disease
- liver failure
- compromised mental health
We are all aware that straying from responsible drinking habits can have a negative effect on our health and well-being. Unfortunately, chronic alcohol abuse is not only dangerous but can lead to serious, long-term physical and mental issues as well.
The best way to cut back on your drinking is to modify your behavior. Try choosing an alternative beverage or only allowing yourself one standard drink per day. Cutting back on drinking can have countless health benefits, and if you’re going to drink, then choosing the right drink is important. Research suggests that drinking red wine may have health benefits of its own.
If consumed in moderation - one glass per day for women and two for men - a person can enjoy the many antioxidants found in red wine, especially resveratrol. Resveratrol is believed to protect us against cancer and heart disease; this powerful antioxidant can be found in the skin of purple Pinot grapes, specifically used to produce Pinot Noir wine. Although doctors generally recommend cutting down on alcohol consumption, they don’t discourage small amounts of red wine as the healthier choice over hard liquor or other sugary beverages.
Cutting back on alcohol consumption is increasingly being recommended by experts due to recent findings that even moderate daily levels of drinking are linked with changes in the brain. A study conducted by Daviet, et al (2022) involving functional MRI scans of more than 36,000 participants, some with habitual drinking and some without, revealed negative associations between alcohol intake and both brain macrostructure and microstructure. The results showed that daily drinking habits can negatively impact the volume of a whopping 90 percent of gray matter. To protect your overall well-being, cut back on drinking alcohol or cut it out altogether if possible.
Affected areas of the brain
Excessive drinking has been linked to serious changes in the brain. The most affected regions were the
These areas control important functions like:
- Sensory perception
- Emotion regulation
Other parts of the brain, such as the amygdalae, putamen and even the brain stem (which is vital for our bodily functions) were also found to be impacted by alcohol consumption.
Ways to minimize alcohol’s effect on the brain
To cut back on drinking and minimize these effects, it's recommended to reduce alcohol intake gradually and be aware of triggers <link to trigger articles> that could lead to cravings. Other healthy habits like staying hydrated and eating well-balanced meals can also play an important role in protecting our brains from alcohol's harmful effects.
Global brain volume
Though the global brain volume measure naturally declines as we age, recent studies have found drinking alcohol exerts a negative effect on it. Reduced consumption of alcohol was associated with fewer changes noticed in the brain scan of people with dementia. Even having small amounts of alcohol daily, like one to two units per day, causes a change in brain volume equivalent to aging two years.
This alarming information applies to both men and women, which reinforces the need to cut back on alcohol consumption. To cut back on your drinking habits, only have a few drinks per week and focus on avoiding larger servings (like a pint of beer or 175-milliliter glasses of wine).
As the holiday season approaches, it's important to keep in mind that everyone has a personal choice when it comes to drinking or not drinking, as well as how much they should drink, if at all. The recent brain research findings are significant and might cause us to think twice about our alcohol consumption during this festive time of year.
Although many enjoy celebrating the holidays with a few drinks, it is also important to take into account the cutbacks suggested by researchers. Those who wish to cut back on their drinking could try exchanging alcoholic beverages for water or other non-alcoholic alternatives such as fruit juice or tea.
Instead of trying to control your overall intake of drinks, why not focus on enjoying quality rather than quantity? By exercising restraint and taking your time with a few signature drinks or alcohol-free options, you’ll still have plenty of fun without feeling like you’ve missed out. The Reframe app is an ideal resource for keeping track of daily activities and consumption levels so that you can make the most responsible decisions. Ultimately, it's all about using your best judgment and enjoying the festivities responsibly while still having a good time.