Alcohol And Women’s Brains
These findings come from researchers in Australia and the United Kingdom who zeroed in on times during women’s lives when the negative effects of alcohol are likely to be the most pronounced. It’s well known that heavy alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which can cause cognitive impairment and reductions in youngsters’ brain volume. New data suggest that even low or moderate drinking during pregnancy is linked with poorer psychological and behavioral outcomes in children. The researchers noted that alcohol use disorders remain a concern in older adults; even moderate drinking has been linked to a small but significant loss of brain volume during midlife, although they wrote that more studies are needed to determine whether these anatomical changes lead to functional impairment. Another concerning issue: in older people, alcohol use disorders recently were shown to be one of the strongest modifiable risk factors for all types of dementia, comparable with other risks including high blood pressure and smoking. The researchers noted that so far, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on alcohol use and related harms are unclear but added that historically alcohol use increased in the long term after other major public health crises.
Louise Mewton, et al, “Lifetime perspective on alcohol and brain health,” BMJ December 4, 2020, doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4691
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