Study: Alcohol might cause brain changes

In a recent national survey of over 30,000 college students, almost 2 out of 3 college students reported using ANY alcohol in the last 30 days (1).

In 2011, almost 70 million Americans reported binge drinking in the last month ( binge drinking defined by the survey as 5 or more drinks on one occasion) (2).

In some people, alcohol can impact emotional health by altering important brain chemicals involved in regulating mood, anxiety.

A previous post looked at the impact of alcohol on grades (3), and alcohol’s impact on sexual assault (4). A recent study looked at the impact of alcohol on brain health (5).

Who was studied? (5)

  • 550 men and women with mean age 43.0, were followed weekly over a 30 year time period.
  • None of the participants had alcohol dependence at the beginning of the study.
  • What was measured? (5)
  • Alcohol intake and cognitive performance were measured on a weekly basis.
  • Multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed at the end of the study (2012-15).Even after adjusting for various factors:

What were the results? (5)

  • In this study, higher alcohol consumption over 30 years was associated with higher odds of hippocampal atrophy.
  • Even those drinking moderately (14-21 units/week) had 3x higher odds of right sided hippocampal atrophy.
  • In this study, there was NO protective effect of light drinking (1-<7 units/week) over abstinence.
  • Higher alcohol use was also associated with differences in corpus callosum microstructure and faster decline in lexical fluency (selecting and retrieving information based on spelling).

What does this mean? (5)

  • Hippocampus changes are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease (6) and depression (7)
  • Alcohol consumption might also impact lexical fluency (selecting and retrieving information based on spelling) (5)
  • Caution is advised even with long term non dependent use of alcohol.

What are some caveats?

  • This is a single, small study of middle age adults in a small region, which limits generalization world wide.
  • Participants could not be randomized.
  • Further study is needed.

Where can I learn more about alcohol?

How much is too much, strategies for cutting down, quitting can be found here:

From what I have seen in research, the amount of alcohol that is considered safe continues to be lowered as we learn more about the impact of alcohol.

Are you regularly drinking alcohol?  How is it impacting your emotional and physical health?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References

  1. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2016. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2017.
  2. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50); 2015.
  3. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2014/09/12/does-alcohol-use-impact-your-grades/
  4. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/10/21/study-alcohol-impacts-sexual-assault/
  5. Topiwala Anya, Allan Charlotte L, Valkanova Vyara, Zsoldos Enikő, Filippini Nicola, Sexton Claire et al. Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study BMJ 2017; 357 :j2353.
  6. McKhann GM, Knopman DS, Chertkow H, et al. The diagnosis of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease: recommendations from the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer’s Association workgroups on diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement2011;357:263-9.
  7. Masi, G. & Brovedani, P. CNS Drugs (2011) 25: 913. doi:10.2165/11595900-000000000-00000.  The Hippocampus, Neurotrophic Factors and Depression.

 

Study: Caffeine, Stress, and Brain function

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

According to the Food and Drug Administration, caffeine is widely available and upto 80% of adults have caffeine everyday, upto 200mg, which is about 10 ounces of coffee (1).

Sometimes caffeine is used to help stay awake, alert, keep up with academic demands, etc.

While the many benefits of caffeine have been widely documented, problems and side effects caffeine are not as widely known.

One study looked at the impact of caffeine on stress (2).

Who was involved in the study? (2)

  • 25 participants who used caffeine regularly or were light user of caffeine.
  • Subjects received placebo or caffeine (3.5mg per kilogram of body weight, about 238mg for a person weighing 150 pounds)

What was measured? (2)

  • Blood pressure, cortisol (stress hormone), norepinephrine and epinephrine (also involved in stress response and other functions).
  • Measurements were taken at rest, during a stressful laboratory task, and afterwards at rest.

What were the results? (2)

  • Compared to placebo, caffeine caused more than DOUBLE the levels of epinephrine and cortisol, both involved in stress response.
  • Effects were similar in both habitual and light users.
  • Habitual use of caffeine did not development of tolerance to the bodily response.
  • Even at rest, caffeine increased blood pressure and plasma norepinephrine levels.

What do the results mean?

Caffeine may increase your stress level whether you are using caffeine sporadically or regularly.

What are some other effects of too much caffeine?

  • Caffeine had as early as 7am lead to less efficient sleep and reduced total sleep at 9pm (3).
  • Some people have more daytime sleepiness because of caffeine related sleep disruption (4).
  • Caffeine can reduce bloodflow to the brain by up to 27% (5)
  • Too much caffeine can cause (1):
    • Worsening of anxiety
    • Jitteriness
    • Nervousness
    • Sleep disturbance
    • Headaches
    • Make your heart beat faster,  palpitations, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms

What are some caveats?

  • This is a small study and there are many studies showing positive and negative effects of caffeine.
  • Not everyone has the same benefits or side effects caffeine.
  • The AMOUNT of caffeine that has beneficial and harmful effects can be different for different people.
  • Some people can metabolize caffeine much faster or slower than others (6).
  • For some people, it can take days to weeks to see benefits from reducing or eliminating caffeine.
  • Stopping caffeine abruptly can lead to withdrawal headaches, irritability, and other symptoms.

Are you feeling stressed, irritable or anxious? How is your caffeine intake? Could you benefit from less?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/ucm200805.pdf
  2. Land JD, Adcock RA, Williams RB, Kuhn CM. Caffeine effects on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to acute psychosocial stress and their relationship to level of habitual caffeine consumption.  Psychosom Med. 1990 May-Jun;52(3):320-36.
  3. H.P. Landolt, E. Werth, A.A. Borbely, D.J. Dijk.  Caffeine intake (200 mg) in the morning affects human sleep and EEG power spectra at night. Brain Research, 675 (1–2) (1995), pp. 67–74.
  4. T. Roehrs, T. Roth. Caffeine: sleep and daytime sleepiness. Sleep Med Rev, 12 (2) (2008), pp. 153–162.
  5. Addicott M.A., Yang L.L., Peiffer A.M., Burnett L.R., Burdette J.H., Chen M.Y.. et al. The effect of daily caffeine use on cerebral blood flow: how much caffeine can we tolerate? Hum. Brain Mapp. 2009;30:3102–3114.
  6. Cornelis, M. C. et al. Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies six novel loci associated with habitual coffee consumption. Mol. Psychiatry 20, 647–656 (2015).

You may not need 8 hours per night of sleep for optimal academic performance

Man reaching for alarm clock

In a large study(1) published in 2013, researchers examined self-reported sleeping habits of about 160,000 users of Lumnosity® who took spatial-memory and matching tests and about 127,000 users who took an arithmetic test. Optimal cognitive performance occurred at 7 hours per night of sleep, with worse performance among those with more or less sleep.

While you may not need exactly 8 hours of sleep per night and guidelines for optimal sleep are likely to be updated in the future(2).  It is however, important to keep in mind that not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, and too little sleep, just as too much sleep can impact your brain and academic performance.

As the new semester approaches, have you considered how sleep is impacting your academic performance, and by how much?  What will you do differently?

  1. Sternberg, et al. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013; 7: 292.  Published online Jun 20, 2013. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00292.  The largest human cognitive performance dataset reveals insights into the effects of lifestyle factors and aging.
  2. http://m.us.wsj.com/articles/sleep-experts-close-in-on-the-optimal-nights-sleep-1405984970?mobile=y 

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes.  With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.