Using the UK BioBank, the study analyzed data from 25,378 participants. This included information on age, sex, education, self-reported alcohol consumption, brain size and health from MRI scans, information about hospital and outpatient visits, and memory tests.
The study found the following key results:
- Alcohol harms the entire brain.
- Higher volume of alcohol consumption per week led to lower grey matter density.
- Alcohol explained 0.8% change in grey matter volume after controlling for other variables. This is the largest modifiable risk factor contributing to brain ill-health. For example alcohol contributes four times more than smoking to brain ill-health.
- Alcohol also threatened the integrity of white matter.
- Underlying conditions such as high blood pressure and high BMI made the negative connections of alcohol with the brain even more worse.
- There was no difference in results in various types of alcohol such as beer, wine or spirits.
There’s no threshold [alcohol use] for harm – any alcohol is worse. Pretty much the whole brain seems to be affected – not just specific areas, as previously thought,” said Anya Topiwala, the lead author and a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Oxford, as per The Guardian.Anya Topiwala, study lead author, senior clinical lecturer, University of Oxford
This research adds to the growing body of science showing that no level of alcohol is safe for health and well-being of people. A previous landmark study showed that no level of alcohol consumption improves health or is good for health.