Though women often get a bad rap for, how do we say, lacking the ability to handle their liquor, a new study suggests men should stop bragging about how quickly they can kill a 30-rack.
The study, which tracked 5,054 men and 2,099 women, found that middle-aged men who drank heavily every day for 10 years experienced greater memory loss and decline in brain function compared to occasional or moderate drinkers. But for middle-age women, heavy drinking wasn’t associated with cognitive decline, even over the long term.
The data comes from participants of the Whitehall II study (which initially followed more than 10,000 men and women over nearly 20 years) who agreed to undergo check-ups and complete self-administered questionnaires about lifestyle choices, including alcohol consumption. The study categorized decreased executive function (which allows us to plan, organize, strategize, and multitask) and memory loss as signs of cognitive decline. Thirty-six grams or more of alcohol (that’s about two shots, two 5 oz. glasses of wine, or two 12 oz. glasses of beer) per day qualified as heavy drinking for men. For a female participant to enter the heavy drinker category, she had to drink about half as much.
While this particular study suggests women do not experience the same cognitive decline as men, it isn’t necessarily license for women of any age to start drinking heavily every day A meta-analysis of alcohol consumption and the risk of 15 diseases. Corrao, G., Bagnardi, V., Zambon, A., et al. Dipartimento di Statistica, Università di Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy. Preventive Medicine, 2004 May;38(5):613-9.. Though the study does not provide a clear-cut reason for the difference, it’s a starting point for further research on the long-term affects of daily drinking.