A study of 25,000 people has found that no amount of alcohol is safe for the human brain. Researchers from the University of Oxford recruited people aged 40 to 69 in the UK from 2006 to 2010 to determine how well their brains processed alcohol intake.
The researchers found that alcohol intake caused significant damage to the brain regardless of the amount consumed. They ruled that no amount of alcohol is safe for the brain and that even moderate consumption puts the brain at more risks than earlier thought. More dangerous is the effect of alcohol on people with high blood pressure and people who are either obese or overweight.
“No safe dose of alcohol for the brain was found,” the researchers wrote. “Moderate consumption is associated with more widespread adverse effects on the brain than previously recognized,” the study reads. “Individuals who binge-drink or with high blood pressure and BMI may be more susceptible. Detrimental effects of drinking appear to be greater than other modifiable factors.”
The scientists defined modifiable risk factors as events that people can control as against those they cannot control, such as aging.
They found that alcohol impacts brain tissue and causes a reduction in the gray matter density in the brain. A reduction in brain gray matter is more visible in people suffering from dementia and linked to poor memory functions. The study found that alcohol intake caused about 0.8% reduction in the size of the brain; and then, the gray matter is where complex memory functions are processed.
“The more people drank, the less the volume of their gray matter,” said lead author Anya Topiwala, a senior clinical researcher at Oxford. “Brain volume reduces with age and more severely with dementia. Smaller brain volume also predicts worse performance on memory testing.”
While people drink different types of alcoholic beverages, the researchers found that all drinks with alcoholic content – wine, beer, and spirits – are bad for the brain. They established that all types of alcoholic drinks posed significant risks to the brain regardless of the type, pattern of drinking, and underlying health conditions.
“We found no evidence that risk of alcohol-related brain harm differs according to alcoholic beverage type,” the authors of the study wrote.
They stated that many people drink with the mindset that they are moderate drinkers, while others erroneously believe that alcohol provides the human body with certain health benefits. Topiwala noted that there is no cure yet for dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases, and since smoking and drinking are major factors, it is best to avoid them in their entirety to safeguard one’s health.