Your days of drinking until you black out might be long behind you and perhaps now you only enjoy a nightly glass of wine or a few beers at the weekend. Moderation when it comes to alcohol certainly seems like a healthier way of doing things, but as per a new study, it seems like any amount of alcohol actually has a harmful effect on the brain. This means that there’s literally no “safe” amount of alcohol consumption, and that’s a total bummer.
- The study comes from the University of Oxford in the UK. While it’s yet to be peer-reviewed, initial findings in the study, which pulled data from more than 25,000 people in the UK, determined that the more alcohol you drink, the lower your brain volume and the worse brain function you’ll experience. As lead study author Anya Topiwala, a senior clinical lecturer at the university explained: “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.”
- The UK Biobank helped the researchers reach their conclusion. The Biobank is a huge database specifically for researchers who use genetic and environmental factors to determine probability of developing particular diseases. For this study, the age, sex, education, self-reported alcohol consumption, brain size, and MRI results were taken from 25,378 participants and analyzed. Memory test results and record of hospital and outpatient visits were also recorded.
- The more alcohol you drink, the less grey matter density you have. Alcohol accounted for up to a 0.8% change in grey matter volume, the study found, even after all other factors were considered. While that percentage might seem unimportant, smoking or having a high BMI has only 1/4 of the effect on the brain that alcohol does. That’s pretty major!
- That’s not the only problem. There was also a negative effect seen on white matter, which comprises the brain fibres that prop up the neurons that make your grey matter. Plus, if you drink AND have a condition like a high BMI or high blood pressure, the harmful effects of alcohol are even greater.
- What type of alcohol you drink doesn’t matter. You might think you’re much better off with a glass of wine than you are with a gin and tonic, but that’s not the case at all. Researchers found that the type of alcohol people drink made no difference to the harmful effects alcohol consumption actually causes.
- More research needs to be done. However, it’s clear in the meantime that alcohol isn’t doing us any favors!