Moderate alcohol consumption may accelerate Alzheimer’s disease. The corresponding study was published in Neurobiology of Disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. Currently, around 6 million people in the US have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and this number is expected to increase to around 14 million by 2050. Understanding which lifestyle factors increase its risk could help develop preventative strategies for the condition.
In the current study, researchers studied the effects of alcohol consumption on behavior and brain function in mice. To do so, they gave mice the choice of drinking water or alcohol for ten weeks to mimic human behavior regarding ‘moderate’ alcohol consumption. They compared these mice with a control group that did not drink alcohol over the same period.
In the end, they found that alcohol consumption increased brain atrophy and the number of amyloid plaques- a key biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease- in the cortex and hippocampus. They further noticed that those who drank alcohol had a greater number of smaller plaques, potentially leaving way for increased plaque proliferation in later life.
From further tests, they found that even moderate drinking was linked to elevated blood sugar and more markers of insulin resistance. Previous research demonstrates that these outcomes increase Alzheimer’s disease risk as well as that for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Alcohol consumption also altered anxiety and dementia-related behavior.
“These preclinical findings suggest that even moderate consumption of alcohol can result in brain injury,” said Shannon Macauley, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, one of the authors of the study, in a press release, “Alcohol consumption may be a modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”
Sources: EurekAlert, Neurobiology of Disease