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You might want to think again before downing that third drink.

Researchers at Wellesley College have found that drinking more than two servings of alcohol a day can increase the rate at which the brain naturally shrinks.

The study, carried out on an adult population with an average age of 60, reported rates that are a quarter faster than the natural rate of brain shrinking, which on average is 1.9 percent per decade.

The results of this study conflict with well-known arguments in favor of alcohol, such as the heart benefits derived from drinking a glass of red wine a day.

Although alcohol affects each organ of the body differently, contradictory evidence has emerged even for the same body system.

In contrast with the Wellesley study, for example, a 2005 study by Harvard researchers found that, for women over age 70, drinking one serving of alcohol a day was shown to help prevent cognitive impairment.

The way in which Penn students interpret these studies may vary considerably.

"When it comes to alcohol," long term studies such as this are "less likely to curb drinking," said College junior Langston Smith.

But with repeated studies and more attention to the subject, he said he would pay more attention to these findings.

Studies tend to focus on adults and long term effects that emerge well past mid-life. This affects their perceived relevance to college students, even if students' drinking habits now may have an impact on their health somewhere down the road.

Many Penn students rationalize "it's so far down the line and I'm the safe one," therefore it can't happen to me, added Smith.

College senior Rahul Reddy said since he's in his last year at Penn, he's more sensitive to health risks because he's thinking about his career and other long-term matters.

"There's a study every day saying different things," said Wharton and Engineering junior Natasha Sabharwal, citing some studies that show heart benefits and one that has linked alcohol to breast cancer.

Because studies can be contradictory, people don't take them too seriously, she added.

Students are biased to remember positive outcomes, such as decreased risk of heart failure with moderate amounts of wine, rather than negative effects, she said.

That tendency doesn't just extend to alcohol, she said, adding that students overlook other health risks, such as the presence of aspartame - a known carcinogen - in diet sodas.

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