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.