Even moderate boozing can risk your mental health

A glass of wine a day is enough to damage the brain and could raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

A glass of wine a day is enough to damage the brain and could raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

After adjusting for things that could have affected the results like, age, sex, smoking and medical history, the researchers found that higher alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk of a form of brain damage that affects memory and spatial navigation - hippocampal atrophy which is also a marker of Alzheimer's disease.

Killian Welch, consultant neuropsychiatrist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, wrote in a separate editorial piece in the BMJ: 'The findings strengthen the argument that drinking habits many regard as normal have adverse consequences for health. In many studies, it includes former drinkers who likely quit for health reasons - whereas people who continued to drink as they aged were probably healthier to begin with.

Many studies have found that moderate drinkers tend to have lower heart disease rates than heavy drinkers and non-drinkers alike.

Light drinkers: 1 to 7 units a week (about three glasses of wine).

Even moderate drinking has been linked to a raised risk of breast cancer and reduced fertility among women.

"It measured the cumulative effects of alcohol across the lifespan, with six measures of drinking over 30 years", he said.

There is no lack of studies pointing to the detrimental effects of alcohol consumption.

The study looked at 550 men and women, none of whom were addicted to alcohol, who were all around 43 years of age.

A research team from the University of Oxford and University College London, led by Oxford's Anya Topiwala, set out to answer just that.

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They also performed more poorly on a specific verbal test, though other language functions appeared to remain unchanged.

The new study casts doubt on that idea, suggesting harm from moderate drinking and no help from light drinking, she said.

By analyzing brain scans, researchers determined that subjects who drunk the most were more likely to have shrunken brains, particularly having an atrophied hippocampus, a condition that's associated with dementia.

A single drink was defined as containing 10 millilitres (eight grammes) of pure alcohol - the equivalent of a large glass of wine, a pint of five-percent beer, or a shot of spirits such as whisky or vodka.

Heavy drinking is known to have an effect on the brain over time but now researchers say even moderate drinking can affect your thinking skills.

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

And while the latest study can not pin the blame on alcohol, it avoided some of the pitfalls of other research, Stockwell said.

Those drinking between 14 and 21 units of alcohol a week - six to nine medium glasses of wine - were three times more likely than teetotallers to suffer hippocampal atrophy. This is important. We all use rationalizations to justify persistence with behaviors not in our long-term interest. It's not clear at this point how much drinking might be safe for the brain. "With publication of this paper, justification of "moderate" drinking on the grounds of brain health becomes a little harder". While multiple previous studies have made this seductive claim, most of the research didn't control for key variables such as IQ and physical activity.

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