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Blog #12 Before going to a party....

The end of the year has arrived quickly. Now, December is a time when there are more social opportunities to drink alcohol at rituals such as Christmas parties and year-end celebrations. And maybe, there will also be a New Year's party coming up soon too!  I'm not trying to put a damper on these fun occasions, but please be mindful not to drink too much alcohol. 

The other day, I had the opportunity to hear from someone who is an expert on the topic of "drinking and dementia."  According to this researcher, a recently reported British study*1 found that people who drank more than 7 units of alcohol per week (56g of pure alcohol by UK standards) were more likely to have smaller total volume of the brain's gray matter (such as cerebral cortex and cerebellar cortex) compared to those who drank less alcohol than 7 units per week. Simply put, for example, even if you drink just one can of beer a day (12 ounces of beer usually contains about 14g of pure alcohol), you will have consumed 98g of pure alcohol in a week, which may cause your brain volume to decrease. The same study also found that people who binge-drink everyday had significantly less total gray matter volume in their brains than those who never did.  Also, the relationship between the volume of gray matter in the brain and the type of alcohol consumed seems to be no difference between wine, beer, and spirits (equal opportunity brain shrinkers!). After all, the amount of pure alcohol is important. Of course, I think that the relationship between alcohol and dementia is an area that will require more research, especially in terms of racial, ethnic or cultural differences. In my book, I introduced that alcohol is one of the risk factors for dementia for people between the ages of 45 and 65.  The current standard recommended by Lancet*2 is an alcohol intake of no more than 21 units (168 g of pure alcohol) per week using UK units. However, if the above research results hold true, regardless of racial or cultural differences, the recommended amount of alcohol to prevent dementia may become even lower in the future.   

In the U.S., CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends  2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women, or no drinking at all to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, such as car accidents, violence, high blood pressure, and cancers *3. One standard drink means in the U.S. that any drink that contains 0.6 fluid ounces (14g) of pure alcohol, such as approximately 12-ounce beer or 5-ounce wine. 

Unfortunately (!?) I don't have enough enzymes to break down alcohol in my body, so when I drink alcohol, my face turns bright red and I feel unwell.  It is estimated that about 44 % of Japanese people fall into this category (do not have enough enzymes or do not have them at all).  Although I don't drink any alcohol at all, some people may be perfectly fine with drinking one bottle of wine. In this way, there are large individual differences when it comes to drinking. And you are the one who knows your body best and what it needs to thrive. Please enjoy drinking while considering the appropriate amount of alcohol for yourself, keeping in mind your future physical, cognitive, and mental health! 

*1  Topiwala, A., Ebmeier, K. P., Maullin-Sapey, T., & Nichols, T. E. (2022). Alcohol consumption and MRI markers of brain structure and function: Cohort study of 25,378 UK Biobank participants. NeuroImage. Clinical35, 103066.


*2  Livingston G, Huntley J, Sommerlad A, Ames D, Ballard C, et al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. Lancet, 2020;396:413-446.


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