Type JournalArticle
Date 2022-03-04
Volume 13
Number 1
Tags alcoholism
Journal Nature Communications
Pages 1175

Associations between Alcohol Consumption and Gray and White Matter Volumes in the UK Biobank

The 'units' of alcohol described in the article are UK-standard 8g units of ethanol, which is a bit over half of a US-standard 14g 'drink'.

In short, drinking even a small amount (e.g. a single 12 oz. beer per day) has a substantial negative impact on the brain (equivalent to about 2.5 years of aging at age 55).


Heavy alcohol consumption has been associated with brain atrophy, neuronal loss, and poorer white matter fiber integrity. However, there is conflicting evidence on whether light-to-moderate alcohol consumption shows similar negative associations with brain structure. To address this, we examine the associations between alcohol intake and brain structure using multimodal imaging data from 36,678 generally healthy middle-aged and older adults from the UK Biobank, controlling for numerous potential confounds. Consistent with prior literature, we find negative associations between alcohol intake and brain macrostructure and microstructure. Specifically, alcohol intake is negatively associated with global brain volume measures, regional gray matter volumes, and white matter microstructure. Here, we show that the negative associations between alcohol intake and brain macrostructure and microstructure are already apparent in individuals consuming an average of only one to two daily alcohol units, and become stronger as alcohol intake increases.

Name Role
Gideon Nave Author
Gökhan Aydogan Author
Henry R. Kranzler Author
Kanchana Jagannathan Author
Nathaniel Spilka Author
Philipp D. Koellinger Author
Reagan R. Wetherill Author
Remi Daviet Author