Does Alcohol Age Your Brain? Here's What the Science Says

does alcohol age your brain? Here's what the science says

It’s pretty well known that too much alcohol isn’t that great for you. It can cause some damage to your liver, contribute to mental health issues and have potential long term effects on your brain. But can alcohol accelerate brain aging?

recent study out of the University of Southern California found that – briefly -  the more you drink, the faster your brain ages.

Does Alcohol Age Your Brain? A Study of 17, 000 Brain Scans

Researchers at the University of Southern California looked at over 17, 000 brain scans to see whether or not daily drinking can accelerate the brain’s aging process.

Interestingly, they found that for every gram of alcohol you consume in a day, your brain ages 0.02 years. That might not seem like much, but if you’re drinking everyday it can quickly add up.

Take for example John Doe, an imaginary-not-so-imaginary guy that drinks a beer every day after work 🍺. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 12 ounces of beer (regular bottle) contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol. That’s equivalent to around:

  • 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol 🍷
  • 5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol 🥃
Drink Type Alcohol Content (%) Alcohol Content (grams)
Beer (12 ounces) 5% 14g
 Wine (5 ounces) 12% 14g
Spirits (5 ounces) 40% + 14g

If a beer contains 14g of alcohol, and the brain ages 0.02 years per gram of alcohol consumed a day, that means John’s brain is aging around 0.28 years every day (assuming he only drinks 1).

0.28 years = 102.2 days

If John keeps up the habit for 6 years, and he ages around 102.2 days faster every year, then that means John will age 613.2 days more over 6 years.

That’s almost 2 years of accelerated aging. 

In the study, people who drank alcohol on most or all days had older-looking brains than people who drank less frequently. On average, daily drinkers brains registered 0.4 years older.

Does Alcohol Age Your Brain? The Verdict

So does alcohol age your brain 🧠? It looks like it. Even if it didn't, there's plenty of other reasons why you probably shouldn't over do it on the liquid confidence. 

Personally, I want my brain to work at top-speed for as long as possible. I plan on being as sharp as a whip well into my 70s and 80s (don’t we all). But obviously, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid alcohol completely – sometimes its inevitable that you’ll have a drink or two – but its probably best to not pick up the habit of daily drinking.

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