My Patients Ask — Does drinking alcohol worsen brain health?

Unfortunately, for those who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, a new and large study from the UK links worse brain health to alcohol consumption. Researchers studied the link between brain scans and self-reported alcohol intake among 25,000 people in the UK.

They found drinking any amount or any kind of alcohol was associated with poorer brain health. And the findings suggest a link between alcohol consumption and reduced gray matter in the brain.

CNN writes:

The team also investigated whether certain drinking patterns, beverage 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 — affected the harm done to the brain.

The authors say additional factors such as binge drinking, obesity, and hypertension could even put people at greater risk.

There are several very large caveats for now: (1) it is an observational study that cannot establish cause and effect, (2) it has not yet been peer-reviewed, and (3) “alcohol only reduced brain gray matter by 0.8% (which may or may not be a clinically noticeable difference).

As a result, Sadie Boniface, head of research at the UK’s Institute of Alcohol Studies, told CNN via email:

We can’t yet say for sure whether there is ‘no safe level’ of alcohol regarding brain health at the moment.

However, this study does support another international study that reported there’s no amount of liquor, wine, or beer that is safe for your overall health.

Stay tuned. And, you can read more in a story on CNN.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2021. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.


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