Skip to main content

The alcohol paradox: The effects of alcohol consumption on brain volume and cognitive function in an aging Icelandic population

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 — Poster Session II

Noon – 2:00 p.m.

Natcher Conference Center




  • B Davis
  • J-S Vidal
  • J Zhang
  • L Launer


Background: Previous studies focused on low-to-moderate alcohol consumption (LMAC) in older populations support a paradoxical relationship between cognitive function (CF) and total brain volume (TBV), with some showing LMAC to be positively associated with CF, and others showing LMAC to be negatively associated with TBV. These differences however could be explained by varying methodologies across studies. Objectives: To test the relationships of LMAC, CF, and TBV in the prospective population based AGES-Reykjavik Study, which includes older women and men (b. 1907-35; women: n=2,020; men: n=1,389). Methods: Drinking status and amount of LMAC were self-reported. CF was the composite score from a battery of cognitive tests. TBV was the percentage of brain parenchyma in the intracranial volume, both estimated quantitatively from cerebral MR scans. ANCOVAs were stratified by sex and adjusted for age, education, and other health and socioeconomic indicators. Results: Current drinkers had significantly higher CF than abstainers and former drinkers. Within current drinkers, TBV decreased significantly with increasing LMAC while CF remained stable. In moderate male drinkers a greater amount of TBV did not confer a cognitive advantage. Conclusion: Our results support the paradox in the relationships between LMAC, TBV, and CF in older individuals.

back to top