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article imageFemale teenage binge drinkers more at risk than young men

By Joan Firstenberg     Jul 15, 2011 in Health
San Diego - Female teenagers who binge drink could be damaging the part of the brain that controls their memory and spatial awareness. But California researchers say boys don't seem to be equally affected.
Most teenage girls who binge drink, which researchers define as drinking over three pints of beer, or more than four glasses of wine at one sitting, don't think much of it. In fact for most teenagers, it's a badge of achievement to be able to drink so much. Teenage boys who drank four pints of beer or an entire bottle of wine were considered to be binge drinkers.
But WebMD reports that research has found that teenage girls suffer more than young men, in terms of damage to their brains. Researcher Susan F. Tapert, the acting chief of psychology at the VA San Diego Healthcare System points out
"Even though adolescents might physically appear grown up, their brains are continuing to significantly develop and mature, particularly in frontal brain regions that are associated with higher-level thoughts, like planning and organization. Heavy alcohol use could interrupt normal brain cell growth during adolescence, particularly in these frontal brain regions, which could interfere with teens' ability to perform in school and sports, and could have long-lasting effects, even months after the teen uses."
In the study girls appeared to be especially vulnerable to these effects. Boys not as much. Tapert explains
"Females' brains develop one to two years earlier than males, so alcohol use during a different developmental stage -- despite the same age -- could account for the gender differences. Hormonal levels and alcohol-induced fluctuations in hormones could also account for the gender differences. Finally, the same amount of alcohol could more negatively affect females since females tend to have slower rates of metabolism, higher body fat ratios, and lower body weight."
The BBC reports that the study used MRI scans to discover that female teenage heavy drinkers had less brain activity in several areas of the brain than female non-drinking teens when doing the same spatial tasks.
The study has been published in a medical periodical called, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
More about Binge drinking, Brain damage, Teenage girls
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