Alcohol use has been associated with disease and death in studies that have warned that no level is safe. Now, it seems there is more bad news on the horizon.
Slowing the rate of growth
A new study conducted in nonhuman primates shows that alcohol consumption can slow the rate of growth in developing brains for adolescents and young adults. The research revealed that for every gram of alcohol consumed per kilogram of body weight the rate of brain growth was reduced by 0.25 milliliters per year.
"Chronic alcohol self-intoxication reduced the growth rate of brain, cerebral white matter and subcortical thalamus," the researchers wrote.
For the study, researchers followed 71 rhesus macaques that consumed alcohol. In addition, to rule out other influencing factors, scientists precisely measured their diet and health care.
"Our measures pinpoint alcohol drinking with the impaired brain growth," said co-author Christopher Kroenke, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Division of Neuroscience at the primate center.
The study further revealed that distinct brain areas lost volume due to the consumption of ethanol.
If you are a heavy drinker however all is not lost. Lead author Tatiana Shnitko, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the Division of Neuroscience at the primate center, said that previous research has shown the brain can recover at least in part once alcohol consumption is stopped.
Long term effects studied
Now, the researchers are looking into whether there would be long-term effects on mental functions.
"This is the age range when the brain is being fine-tuned to fit adult responsibilities," Shnitko said. "The question is, does alcohol exposure during this age range alter the lifetime learning ability of individuals?"
The study is published in the journal eNeuro