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Neuroimaging-Derived Predicted Brain Age and Alcohol Use Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults.

OBJECTIVES: Observational studies have suggested that moderate alcohol use is associated with reduced risk of dementia. However, the nature of this association is not understood. We investigated whether light to moderate alcohol use may be associated with slower brain aging, among a cohort of older community-dwelling adults using a biomarker of brain age based on structural neuroimaging measures.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional observational study.

PARTICIPANTS: Well-characterized members of a longitudinal cohort study who underwent neuroimaging. We categorized the 163 participants (mean age 76.7 ± 7.7, 60% women) into current nondrinkers, light drinkers (1-7 drinks/week) moderate drinkers (>7-14 drinks/week), or heavier drinkers (>14 drinks/week).

MEASUREMENTS: We calculated brain-predicted age using structural MRIs processed with the BrainAgeR program, and calculated the difference between brain-predicted age and chronological age (brain-predicted age difference, or brain-PAD). We used analysis of variance to determine if brain-PAD differed across alcohol groups, controlling for potential confounders.

RESULTS: Brain-PAD differed across alcohol groups (F[3, 150] = 4.02; p = 0.009) with heavier drinkers showing older brain-PAD than light drinkers (by about 6 years). Brain-PAD did not differ across light, moderate, and nondrinkers. Similar results were obtained after adjusting for potentially mediating health-related measures, and after excluding individuals with a history of heavier drinking.

DISCUSSION: Among this sample of healthy older adults, consumption of more than 14 drinks/week was associated with a biomarker of advanced brain aging. Light and moderate drinking was not associated with slower brain aging relative to non-drinking.

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