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Drinking too much Head to the gym: Exercise can repair damage to the brain caused by alcohol
Aerobic exercise such as jogging may alleviate some of the white-matter damage caused by heavy drinkingExercise can slow cognitive decline related with age
20:04 GMT, 16 April 2013
20:04 GMT, 16 April 2013
Working out can help former heavy drinkers limit the damage alcohol has done to their brain.
New research has found that aerobic exercise may alleviate some of the white-matter damage caused by heavy drinking.
Previous studies have shown aerobic exercise can slow cognitive decline and decrease negative neural changes associated with normal ageing and several diseases.
The new study investigated if aerobic exercise may also prevent or repair alcohol-related neurological damage, finding that it may in fact protect white matter from alcohol-related damage.
Aerobic exercise such as jogging may alleviate some of the damage to the brain caused by heavy drinking
One of the study's authors, Hollis Karoly, of the University of Colorado, said: 'Engaging in regular aerobic exercise has been found to improve learning, memory, and self-control.
'This seems to be particularly true among older adults who exercise regularly, which suggests that exercise may prevent a natural loss in cognitive functions that occurs as people age.
'Additionally, exercise has been shown to protect white matter in the brain from damage associated with ageing and various diseases.'
She added that heavy long-term alcohol consumption leads to neural damage that looks similar to the decline in seen in older people.
'Given that exercise is protective against some of the neural and cognitive effects of aging, it seemed likely that aerobic exercise may also work to reverse or prevent some of the damage to the brain caused by chronic alcohol consumption.'
In the study, 60 participants with similar brain and clinical data underwent MRI scans of their brains.
All reported their level of alcohol consumption, loss of control over drinking, and aerobic exercise participation.
The researchers then examined relationships among exercise, alcohol, and the impact it had on areas of the brain.
Heavy long-term alcohol consumption leads to brain damage that looks similar to the decline in seen in older people
Ms Karoly said: 'This study found that the relationship between alcohol consumption and white matter depends upon how much people exercise.'
Dr Susan Tapert, professor of psychiatry at University of California, added: 'For individuals with low levels of aerobic exercise, heavy drinking was linked to poorer white matter health, but for those with greater exercise involvement, the relationship between alcohol and white matter health was not as strong.
“Although we don't know yet if the exercise is protecting against alcohol-related damage, or if it is a sign of factors linked to brain health, this is a very compelling study.
'This suggests that individuals who have experienced alcohol-related brain problems could possibly use exercise to help recover those effects; studying people over time will tell us if this is in fact the case.'
The findings are due to be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.