Copyright © 2021 Natural Medicines (
January 2014

Drinking Linked to Increased Cognitive Decline in Men

A recent study suggests that men who drink more than 36 grams of alcohol daily may have increased mental decline.

Alcohol affects virtually every organ system in the body and, in high doses, may cause coma and death. It affects several neurotransmitter systems in the brain, including opiates, GABA, glutamate, serotonin, and dopamine. Increased opiate levels are thought to account for the euphoric effect of alcohol; alterations in GABA are believed to cause anxiolytic (anxiety relieving) and sedative effects.

In a new study, researchers evaluated data on 5,054 men and 2,099 women with an average age of 56 years-old from the Whitall II cohort study. Data on alcohol consumption was collected 3 times before cognitive tests throughout the study. Various cognitive functions were evaluated and summarized with a global score.

The researchers found that men, but not women, who consumed 36 grams or more of alcohol daily presented a faster decline in all evaluated cognitive functions when compared to those who consumed less. Differences in cognitive function in men who did not drink, had stopped drinking, or were light or moderate drinkers were lacking.

The authors concluded that men who drink more than 36 grams of alcohol daily may experience faster cognitive decline than those who drink less. Further research is warranted.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Sabia S, Elbaz A, Britton A, et al. Alcohol consumption and cognitive decline in early old age. Neurology 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000063

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2021 Natural Medicines Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. Natural Medicines is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.