Drinking Alcohol May Accelerate Alzheimer’s Disease, Study Finds

Drinking a light to moderate amount of alcohol has not been linked with an increased risk of dementia, but a new study finds it may contribute to the acceleration of the disease.

A study recently published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease investigated how alcohol consumption impacted the brains of mice genetically engineered with Alzheimer’s pathology. The researchers found that alcohol was associated with the acceleration of several hallmarks of the disease.


Dr. Shannon Macauley, co-lead researcher and associate professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, says, “These findings suggest alcohol might accelerate the pathological cascade of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.”

To conduct their study, the team spent 10 weeks allowing mice to freely choose between water or alcohol, much like humans would do. They then looked at how this voluntary alcohol consumption changed the pathology involved in early Alzheimer’s.

The team found that alcohol was linked with increased brain atrophy and an increased number of amyloid plaques, while acute alcohol withdrawal increased levels of amyloid-beta. Chronic alcohol exposure was also associated with changes in the regulation of brain and peripheral metabolism, as well as elevated blood sugar and signs of insulin resistance. Dementia-related behaviors like anxiety were also altered.


The researchers say their findings indicate that moderate alcohol consumption could lead to physical brain impacts and behavioral changes in those with Alzheimer’s pathology.

Dr. Macauley explains, “These preclinical findings suggest that even moderate consumption of alcohol can result in brain injury. Alcohol consumption may be a modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”

Though the findings from this study involved mice with Alzheimer’s pathology, other research has found that heavy drinking in general can lead to brain damage and an increased dementia risk, as well.

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