Smoking and drinking daily ages the brain

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Drinking and smoking daily may be associated with modest increases in relative brain age compared to those who drink and smoke less, according to new research published in the journal ‘Scientific Reports’.

This study has shown that certain lifestyle habits, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, are associated with adverse effects in specific brain regions. However, it is not clear how tobacco and alcohol consumption may be associated with brain age, especially when considering the entire brain.

USC researcher Stevens Hall for Neuroimaging Arthur W. Toga and his colleagues at the University of Southern California used machine learning and MRI methods to identify relative brain age in 17,308 individuals aged 45 to 81 whose data were included in the Biobank of the United Kingdom. Relative brain age is the brain age of an individual based on MRI measurements, compared to the average brain age of their peers.

The authors found that in 11,651 individuals on whom information about smoking was collected, those who smoked most or every day had a higher relative brain age than those who smoked less frequently or did not smoke.

Each group of additional years of smoking was associated with 0.03 years of increase in relative brain age. One year of package was defined as smoking a pack of cigarettes per day on average for a whole year.

In 11,600 individuals on whom information on alcohol consumption behavior was collected, those who drank alcohol most of the days had a higher relative brain age than those who drank less frequently or not at all. Each additional gram of alcohol consumption per day was associated with 0.02 years of relative brain age increase.

The authors warn that, in addition to tobacco and alcohol consumption, other environmental and genetic factors may be associated with brain age, so studies in larger samples are needed to further clarify these associations.

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