A variety of studies have linked heavy drinking to brain damage and dementia, but a new one suggests moderate drinking might also hurt the brain and perhaps lead to memory loss. Contrary to studies suggesting drinking in moderation might actually be good for you, the latest in the British Medical Journal determined that middle-aged moderate drinkers who consumed between eight to 12 shots, bottles of beer, or small glasses of wine per week were more likely than light or non-drinkers to suffer a decline in language ability over a 30-year period, reports USA Today. Perhaps most concerning, moderate drinkers were also three times more likely than non-drinkers to experience a shrinking of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory.
In the study of 527 Brits, mostly middle-class men, researchers found that 35% of non-drinkers had experienced hippocampal atrophy after 30 years, compared to 65% of moderate drinkers and 77% of participants who drank the most, reports the Guardian. As hippocampal atrophy may be linked to dementia, moderate drinking, then, could be tied to future memory loss, reports CNN. Researchers, who expected light to moderate drinkers to be protected from cognitive decline, were "surprised," co-author Anya Topiwala explains. "These are people who are drinking at levels that many consider social drinkers, so they are not consuming a lot." While researchers took age, sex, social activity, and education into account, experts caution that other factors, like diet, may play a role. (Moderate drinking might also increase your breast cancer risk.)