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Even moderate alcohol use can harm brain

Even moderate amounts of alcohol consumption increase the risk of adverse effects on the brain and decline in cognitive skills, researchers say after evaluating a 30-year study.
alcohol

Even moderate amounts of alcohol consumption increase the risk of adverse effects on the brain and decline in cognitive skills, researchers say after evaluating a 30-year study

Even moderate amounts of alcohol consumption increase the risk of adverse effects on the brain and declines in cognitive skills, researchers say.

A team from the University of Oxford and University College London obtained data from 550 healthy adults who took part in a 30-year study up to 2015 to evaluate the impact of social and economic factors on long-term health.

Participants had an average age of 43 at the start of the study, and none were alcohol dependent.

Brain function tests were carried out at regular intervals and at the end of the study participants underwent an MRI brain scan.

Safe limits

...

Even moderate amounts of alcohol consumption increase the risk of adverse effects on the brain and decline in cognitive skills, researchers say after evaluating a 30-year study

alcohol
Even moderate alcohol consumption risks affecting cognitive skills. Picture: iStock

Even moderate amounts of alcohol consumption increase the risk of adverse effects on the brain and declines in cognitive skills, researchers say.

A team from the University of Oxford and University College London obtained data from 550 healthy adults who took part in a 30-year study up to 2015 to evaluate the impact of social and economic factors on long-term health.

Participants had an average age of 43 at the start of the study, and none were alcohol dependent.

Brain function tests were carried out at regular intervals and at the end of the study participants underwent an MRI brain scan.

Safe limits

After adjusting for factors including age, social class and medical history, researchers found higher alcohol consumption was associated with increased risk of hippocampal atrophy, which affects memory and spatial navigation.

Those drinking 14-21 units were found to be three times more likely to have the condition compared with abstainers. Adults in the UK are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. A bottle of wine is about 10 units.

‘Our findings support the recent reduction in UK safe limits and call into question the current US guidelines, which suggest that up to 24.5 units a week is safe for men,’ the researchers write.

‘Alcohol might represent a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, and primary prevention interventions targeted to later life could be too late.’


Topiwala A et al (2017) Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study. BMJ. doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j2353

 

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