Although the study did not eschew drinking alcoholic beverages completely, reporting that moderate drinking could actually be healthy for the brain, researchers also found that men who drank heavily had a major and measurable cognitive impairment consistent with premature aging.
Unlike previous studies of a similar nature, the researchers in this new study also looked for long-term cognitive changes that negatively impacted the participants’ ability to remember things from years past.
Accordingly, the participants taking part in the new study were examined every four years, starting in 1997 and repeated at three intervals until 2009.
The testing included examinations and a series of questionnaires, which asked about the amount of alcohol they consumed and any special health habits or lifestyle changes they made. By the time testing ended in 2009, the participants’ ages ranged from 55 to 80 years old.
After analyzing all the information, the researchers found that men who consumed 36 grams of alcohol daily, or a little more than 2.5 drinks per day, had a worsening in cognitive function and memory, compared to those who drank lower amounts.
They also found that male participants that drank over 2.5 drinks per day tended to suffer more severe damage to their memories – with a loss that averaged 5.7 years. In other words, if a 62-year-old male participant had been consuming more than 2.5 drinks per day, his memory would be more like that of a 68-year-old.
The ability to process information and think efficiently was also negatively impacted for those who drank heavily, which aged their brain an additional 1.5 years.