Drinking every day cripples your brain - especially if you're a woman
Any more than one glass of wine a night crushes cells in an essential brain region, study warns
Having more than one glass of wine a night is enough to kill cells in key regions of a woman's brain, according to new research. A study on mice found that alcohol is particularly damaging to the subventricular region of the brain, where new brain cells are created to sustain brain function, and protect against tumours and neurodegenerative diseases.
For the first time, research showed that female brains displayed more severe deficits after drinking than males, who would need more than 14 drinks a week to suffer significant damage.
The researchers in Texas said the findings, while alarming, could open a door to combating alcoholism by helping us to understand alcohol-related brain changes.
Dozens of studies have shown that prolonged alcohol abuse can cause severe brain damage and neurodegeneration. In fact, on Wednesday a leading panel of oncologists released a report linking alcohol to seven types of cancers.
Scientists once believed that the number of nerve cells in the adult brain was fixed early in life and the best way to treat alcohol-induced brain damage was to protect the remaining nerve cells. But research has shown that adult brains produce stem cells that create new nerve cells and alcohol is suppressing that process.
Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston said this discovery provides a new way of approaching the problem of alcohol-related changes in the brain.
Dr. Ping Wu, UTMB professor in the department of neuroscience and cell biology, said: ' Before the new approaches can be developed, we need to understand how alcohol impacts the brain stem cells at different stages in their growth, in different brain regions and in the brains of both males and females.'
In the study, Wu and her colleagues used a technique that allowed them to tag brain stem cells and observe how they migrate and develop into nerve cells over time. This allowed them to study the impact of longterm alcohol consumption on the cells.
The female brains displayed more severe intoxication behaviours and greatly reduced the pool of stem cells in the subventricular zone, where the new cells are generated.
The findings show that the effects of repeated alcohol consumption differed across brain regions. And the region most susceptible to the effects of alcohol was one of two brain regions where new cells are created in adults.
Scientists expect to learn more about how alcohol interacts with brain stem cells, which will ultimately lead to a clearer understanding of how best to treat and cure alcoholism. This study comes on the heels of a landmark report warning that alcohol can cause seven cancers including mouth, throat, breast and colorectal cancers. The report advises that drinking one or less drinks a day for women and two or less drinks a day for men greatly reduces the development of these cancers.
However, other studies have shown the benefits of light alcohol consumption. Drinking a glass of wine, or five ounces with a 12 percent alcohol content, can lower one's risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, research found. But the report does warn that heavy drinking increases the risk of mortality and the development life-threatening illnesses.
Prolonged alcohol abuse can cause severe brain damage