Archives for December 8, 2003

Alcohol linked to brain shrinkage? Uh, no.

MSNBC has had this article up for about a week, and I didn’t even bother to read it until today:
Alcohol linked to brain shrinkage.

I skipped it because it seems a reasonable corollary of ‘known knowns’ (thanks Rummy!), in that we know very heavy drinking causes brain atrophy, so why shouldn’t moderate drinking cause mild – moderate atrophy?

I finally read it today, and the reasearchers didn’t say that moderate drinking causes brain atrophy! The headline is completely misleading.

The final sentence of the article entirely refutes the headline:

Ding said researchers cannot make a definitive cause-and-effect link between drinking and brain atrophy because the MRIs were done only once during the study and because they found only a small reduction in tissue.

Their research is interesting but wasn’t looking for atrophy. This is not to say that moderate drinking won’t shrink our brains, just that this article was about stroke reduction benefits of moderate drinking (unfortunately, no), which was hoped for given the cardiovascular iimprovements with the same amount of drinking.

I have to wonder how science reporters are selected, and who edits their work, because this is just embarrasing to MSNBC.