The preliminary findings from Oxford University were recently posted to medRxiv ahead of peer review, drawing on clinical data and imaging samples from over 25,000 adults in the U.K. Biobank study. Subjects were aged 40 to 69 years when they were first recruited from 2006 to 2010.
Nearly all participants were classified as current drinkers, while just 5.2% were non-drinkers, per the study. Almost half of participants were consuming alcohol at levels above U.K. ‘low risk’ guidelines, though few were considered heavy drinkers, researchers wrote. Through MRI analyses, the team looked for correlations between alcohol use and grey matter in the brain.
“No safe dose of alcohol for the brain was found. Moderate consumption is associated with more widespread adverse effects on the brain than previously recognised,” 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. Current ‘low risk’ drinking guidelines should be revisited to take account of brain effects.”
Perhaps the findings aren’t surprising, study authors said, due to the mechanism in which ethanol diffuses throughout brain tissue.
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