According to a study of over 25,000 people in the UK, there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption for the brain, even “moderate” consumption negatively affects almost all of its parts.
the study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, suggests that the more alcohol one consumes, the more brain volume decreases. The more you drink, the more your brain deteriorates.
“There is no threshold for harmful alcohol consumption – all alcohol is worse. Almost the whole brain seems to be affected – not just specific areas, as previously thought,” said lead author Anya Topiwala, clinical lecturer at Oxford University.
By using the UK Biobanka substantial database designed to help researchers decode the genetic and environmental factors that lead some people to develop diseases while others do not, researchers in this study analyzed data from 25,378 participants such as age, gender, education, self-reported alcohol consumption, brain size and health from MRI scans, information about hospital and outpatient visits, and memory tests .
Higher volume of alcohol consumption per week was associated with lower gray matter density – researchers found that alcohol explained up to 0.8% change in gray matter volume, even after taking into account individual biological and behavioral characteristics.
It may seem like a small number, but it’s a bigger contribution than any other modifiable risk factor. For example, it’s four times the contribution of smoking or BMI, Topiwala said.
Widespread negative associations have also been observed between alcohol consumption and the integrity of white matter, the brain fibers that scaffold the billions of neurons that make up gray matter. Additionally, an individual’s underlying conditions such as high blood pressure and high BMI reinforce the negative association between alcohol and brain health, the researchers found.
Unlike previous research that suggested there was a benefit to drinking wine in moderation over beer or spirits, the study found no evidence to suggest that the type of alcoholic beverage conferred differences in risk for the brain.
Associations of wine consumption with higher educational attainment and socioeconomic status may explain the perceived health benefits, the authors suggested. “If you look at who drinks moderately, at least in this country, it’s more educated, wealthier people who would do much better on a memory test…simply because of who they are, than less educated people,” said Topiwala. .
The results are more compelling than many alternative hypotheses, said Colin Angus, lead researcher at the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group at the University of Sheffield.
“In the grand scheme of things, these effects appear small, although it is difficult to compare them to the impact of alcohol on other health outcomes, such as increased cancer risks, without other research to understand how the association between alcohol and brain health feeds lead to more tangible outcomes, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2016, the Department of Health introduced new alcohol guidelines in the UK, recommending that men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
Topiwala said the study showed evidence of harm below that threshold.