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New study finds any amount of alcohol consumption harms the brain

The study researched the impact of drinking alcohol on more than 25,000 people

  • Patrick Hinton
  • 19 May 2021
New study finds any amount of alcohol consumption harms the brain

A new study has found that any amount of alcohol consumption is harmful to the brain.

The study researched the impact of drinking alcohol on more than 25,000 people, and reported that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, with even “moderate” drinking negatively affecting almost every part of the organ.

The study linked alcohol consumption to lowering grey matter density, indicating that the more you drink, the more harm it causes your brain.

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“There’s no threshold drinking for harm – any alcohol is worse. Pretty much the whole brain seems to be affected – not just specific areas, as previously thought,” said Anya Topiwala, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study.

The study analysed data from people from a range of different demographics, spanning age, sex, education, reported levels of alcohol consumption, brain size and health indicators from MRI scans, as well as medical history and memory tests. It has not yet been peer reviewed.

Researchers found that alcohol was responsible for a change in grey matter volume of up to 0.8%. This is four times higher than changes that can be explained by smoking or BMI.

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The study did not report any findings that drinking wine in moderation is more beneficial than drinking beer or spirits, contrary to previous research. The authors suggested this misperception could be linked to the association wine-drinking has with higher educational attainment and socioeconomic status.

“If you look at who is moderately drinking, at least in this country, they are better educated, wealthier people that would do much better on a memory test … just because of who they are, than people that are less educated,” said Topiwala.

New alcohol guidelines introduced by the Department of Health in 2016 recommmended both men and women do not more more than 14 units of alcohol per week. Topiwala said the study findings indicate harm is caused below that threshold.

[Via: Guardian]

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