Despite decades of research that link moderate drinking to health benefits, including lower risk of heart disease and better cognitive functioning, several studies that emerged over last coupla yrs prompted some researchers/ advocates to cast doubt on those links. Two more just appeared. Yesterday, British Medical Journal ran study that found even moderate drinking, less than 2 per day, linked to kind of brain damage “that can cause Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” as one report noted. Moderate drinking was also associated with declines in language fluency, but not necessarily with other measures of mental acuity. Authors pointed out “there was no evidence of a protective effect of light drinking over abstinence on brain structure or function.” They acknowledged that the link is not causal, and two experts pointed out that other lifestyle factors weren’t taken into account. But the authors concluded nonetheless that their findings support Britain’s “reduction in alcohol guidance” last yr and “question the current limits recommended in the US,” up to 1/day for women, 2/day for men.
Of course, headlines accentuated the negative: “This is your brain on alcohol – and it’s not good; Declines found even in moderate drinkers”; “Even Moderate Drinking May Dull the Brain”; “Social Drinking Might Cause Dementia.” Meanwhile, a separate study appeared recently that even called into question any link between moderate drinking and heart health, especially for drinkers under age 55. The authors concluded: “There remain grounds for skepticism about the hypothesis that alcohol use can be cardio-protective.” Expect this skepticism to increasingly emerge as public health advocates push for new (and old) restrictions on alcohol sales, higher taxes, etc.