There is no such thing as a "safe" level of drinking, with increased consumption of alcohol associated with poorer brain health, according to a new study.
In an observational study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers from the University of Oxford1
studied the relationship between the self-reported alcohol intake2
of some 25,000 people in the UK, and their brain scans.
The researchers noted3
that drinking had an effect on the brain's gray matter -- regions in the brain that make up "important bits where information is processed," according to lead author Anya Topiwala, a senior clinical researcher at Oxford.
"The more people drank, the less the volume of their gray matter," Topiwala said via email.
"Brain volume reduces with age and more severely4
with dementia. Smaller brain volume also predicts worse performance on memory testing," she explained.
"Whilst alcohol only made a small contribution to this (0.8%), it was a greater contribution than other 'modifiable' risk factors," she said, explaining that modifiable risk factors are "ones you can do something about, in contrast to aging."
The team also investigated whether certain drinking patterns, beverage5
types and other health conditions made a difference to the impact of alcohol on brain health.
They found that there was no "safe" level of drinking -- meaning that consuming any amount of alcohol was worse than not drinking it. They also found no evidence that the type of drink -- such as wine, spirits or beer -- affected6
the harm done to the brain.
However, certain characteristics, such as high blood pressure, obesity7
or binge-drinking, could put people at higher risk, researchers added.