Excessive alcohol intake may push Alzheimers disease forward by a few years

Alzheimers Research UK explain 'what is dementia?'

The team based at Scripps Research Institute found that alcohol use disorder quickens the pace of Alzheimer’s disease progression when paired with genetic susceptibility.

Co-author Federico Manuel Giorgi, PhD, said: “Adding ethanol [i.e. alcohol] to an Alzheimer’s genetic background pushes Alzheimer’s forward by a few months or a few years.”

The professor of computational genomics at the University of Bologna, and his team, explored how alcohol impacted Alzheimer’s disease.

Utilising mice models, the new study compared rodents who had been exposed to alcohol repeatedly over several months to control subjects.

Co-author Pietro Paolo Sanna, MD, said: “We started seeing cognitive impairments in the alcohol-treated mice approximately two months before they would normally develop these impairments.”

They noted alcohol exposure was associated with widespread changes in gene expression in the prefrontal cortex.

Specifically, alcohol-exposed mice had higher expression of genes associated with neuronal excitability, neurodegeneration, and inflammation.

Sanna added: “When we compared the alcohol-exposed mice to the same type of mice with early or late progression of the disease…

“We found that the effect of alcohol is to move gene expression towards the advanced disease.”

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The authors concluded: “A history of repeated alcohol intoxication promotes cognitive impairment.”

While this study focuses on familial Alzheimer’s, the plan for future research is to investigate if alcohol impacts the onset and progression of sporadic Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Society stated: “Alcohol consumption in excess has well-documented negative effects on both short- and long-term health.

“One of which is brain damage that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.”

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Heavy use of alcohol over time is linked to a “reduced volume of the brain’s white matter, which helps to transmit signals between different regions”.

The charity adds: “Long-term heavy alcohol consumption can also result in a lack of vitamin thiamine B1 and Korsakoff’s Syndrome, a memory disorder affecting short-term memory.”

The NHS advises adults to drink less than 14 units of alcohol per week.

The study was published in the journal eNeuro on June 12, 2023.

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