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New Study Finds Even Just A Few Beers Or Glasses Of Wine A Week May Be Risky

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Many of people enjoy the occasional glass of wine with dinner or a drink to wind down at the end of the day. Previous research has shown that people who drink heavily have changes in the structure and size of the brain that are associated with cognitive impairments. Now a new study finds that even just a few beers or glasses of wine a week may also be risky.

"I was surprised at just how little alcohol seems to be necessary to reduce brain volume," said Dr. Henry Kranzler from the Penn Center for Studies of Addiction.

Dr. Kranzler and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania looked at data on more than 36,000 adults and found light-to-moderate drinking was associated with reductions in overall brain volume.

What happens in cases where people drink far more than one drink a day?

"The reductions are proportional. So, the more you drink, the smaller the volume," Dr. Kranzler said.

For example, in 50-year-olds, increasing drinking from about half a beer a day to a pint of beer led to changes in the brain equivalent to aging two years. Dr. Kranzler said the study findings are in contrast to current guidelines on safe drinking limits from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which say no more than one drink per day for women, no more than two drinks per day for men.

"It's reasonable to have a small amount of alcohol, but I would discourage people from drinking more than one or two drinks on any occasion and no more than probably seven drinks on average in a week," Dr. Kranzler said.

He said about a third of the adult population drinks more than recommended, so cutting back could have big benefits.

CDC data shows two in three adult drinkers report drinking above moderate levels at least once a month.

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