Published By David Disalvo-January 16, 2014 in

There are differences in how the sexes metabolize alcohol

imgOne of the largest studies ever conducted on the long-term effects of alcohol consumption suggests that heavy drinking is linked to significant cognitive decline in middle-aged men. The brains of women, however, seem to be protected against this toxic effect for reasons that aren’t clear.

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Cognitive decline in the study was defined in two ways: a decrease in executive function (the brain’s processing speed and efficiency), and deterioration in memory.Researchers analyzed data from the Whitehall II cohort study, which began in the mid-1980s with roughly 10,000 British civil servants who agreed to complete lifestyle questionnaires and undergo a physical exam at specified times during a nearly 20-year span. The study design allowed researchers to track effects of lifestyle choices, including drinking alcohol, over extended periods of time.The study found that middle-aged men (average age 56)  who drank 36 grams, the equivalent of about 1.2 fluid ounces, or more of alcohol a day for 10 years experienced greater memory loss and slowing of executive function as compared to “occasional” or “moderate” drinkers who consumed between .03 and 1.1 ounces a day.

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