In a study from Wake Forest University, scientists found that alcohol drinking is linked to the faster development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
While recent research suggests alcohol use disorder is a risk factor in Alzheimer’s disease, the impact alcohol use disorder has on Alzheimer’s disease pathology is an area of continued research.
In the current study, scientists showed that even modest amounts of alcohol can accelerate brain atrophy, which is the loss of brain cells, and increase the number of amyloid plaques, which are the accumulation of toxic proteins in Alzheimer’s disease.
These findings suggest alcohol might accelerate the pathological cascade of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.
In the study, the team tested mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology.
They used a 10-week chronic drinking approach where mice were given the choice to drink water or alcohol, mimicking human behavior regarding alcohol drinking
They then explored how voluntary, moderate consumption of alcohol altered healthy brain function and behavior and whether it altered the pathology associated with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers found that alcohol increased brain atrophy and caused an increased number of amyloid plaques including a greater number of smaller plaques, potentially setting the stage for increased plaque proliferation in later life.
Interestingly, researchers also noted that acute withdrawal of alcohol increased the levels of amyloid-beta, which is a key component of amyloid plaques that accumulate in Alzheimer’s disease.
Further analysis showed that chronic alcohol exposure poorly regulated brain and peripheral metabolism—another way to accelerate Alzheimer’s disease pathology.
Macauley previously showed that elevated blood sugar increases amyloid-beta and amyloid plaques.
In the current study, researchers found that even moderate drinking caused elevations in blood sugar and markers of insulin resistance, which increases the risk not only for Alzheimer’s disease but also for other diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The study also found that moderate alcohol use altered anxiety and dementia-related behaviors.
These preclinical findings suggest that even moderate consumption of alcohol can result in brain injury. Alcohol drinking may be a modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about the root cause of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s, and 5 steps to protect against Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that herb rosemary could help fight COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s, and results showing these antioxidants could help reduce the risk of dementia.
The study was conducted by Shannon Macauley et al and published in Neurobiology of Disease.
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