Wine harder on the brain than beer

Scientists say wine damages the brain more than beer or spirits, because it particularly affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory and spatial awareness.

The hippocampus is one of the first areas to be affected by Alzheimer's disease.

The psychiatrists who conducted the study compared brain scans from diagnosed alcoholics with those from healthy adults and they say the revelation could explain why millions forget what they are doing mid-task.

The researchers found that wine shrinks the hippocampus and as women tend to drink more wine than beer, they are more likely to be affected; many middle-age drinkers also drink wine for its supposed health benefits.

The team of psychiatrists found the hippocampus, which is located deep within the brain's temporal lobes, was up to 10 per cent smaller in those who drank and they say this is the first study to investigate the impact of the type of preferred beverage on brain-volume shrinkage in patients with alcohol dependence.

The study found that in non-alcoholics the hippocampus was 3.85ml, in beer drinkers it was 3.4ml, in spirit drinkers 2.9ml and for wine drinkers it was the smallest, just 2.8ml; in the case of beer drinkers some had consumed twice as much alcohol as the wine lovers.

The hippocampus controls memory, navigation and spatial awareness and when affected by alcohol it can also cause feelings of disorientation.

The researchers at Germany's Göttingen University found that beer drinkers also had the lowest levels of a compound in the blood called homocysteine a compound found to be linked to higher rates of heart disease, strokes, brain atrophy and dementia.

The researchers from Göttingen University, in Germany suggest that the B vitamins and folate in beer may help to break down homocysteine.

Research in recent years has linked moderate wine drinking to a plethora of health benefits, including reducing cholesterol and high blood pressure and resveratol, a molecule found in the skin of red grapes, has been associated with health benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease, strokes and some cancers.

Other research however has linked moderate alcohol consumption to an increased the risk of bowel cancer and the over-consumption of any alcohol to increased risk of kidney and liver disease, long-term brain damage and organ failure.

The study is published in the medical journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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