Even moderate alcohol drinking is linked to faster Alzheimer’s development

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Wake Forest University scientists have found a connection between alcohol consumption and the accelerated development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, representing 60% to 80% of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

While alcohol use disorder has previously been suggested as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, the influence it has on the pathology of Alzheimer’s is still being researched.

Details of the Study

In this study, researchers demonstrated that even moderate amounts of alcohol could hasten brain atrophy, or the loss of brain cells, and increase the number of amyloid plaques, toxic protein accumulations associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

These findings indicate that alcohol might speed up the pathological cascade of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.

The team used mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology for their research.

They adopted a 10-week chronic drinking approach where mice were given the option to drink water or alcohol, mirroring human behavior regarding alcohol consumption.

They then examined how voluntary, moderate consumption of alcohol altered healthy brain function and behavior, and whether it altered the pathology related to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers discovered that alcohol increased brain atrophy and led to an increased number of amyloid plaques, including a greater number of smaller plaques, potentially setting the stage for increased plaque proliferation later in life.

Notably, researchers also observed that acute withdrawal of alcohol increased the levels of amyloid-beta, 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 factor that could accelerate Alzheimer’s disease pathology.

The researchers also 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 observed that moderate alcohol use altered anxiety and dementia-related behaviors.

Implications and Future Directions

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

The researchers recommend further studies to explore the exact relationship and the possible measures to mitigate the risk.

The study was conducted by Shannon Macauley et al and published in the Neurobiology of Disease journal.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how unhealthy blood pressure increases your dementia risk, and coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that cranberries could help boost memory, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

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