Alcohol Consumption in the General Population Is Associated With Structural Changes in Multiple Organ Systems
Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with damage to various organs, but its multi-organ effects have not been characterized across the usual range of alcohol using in a large general population sample.
This study assessed global effect sizes of alcohol consumption on quantitative magnetic resonance imaging phenotypic measures of the brain, heart, aorta, and liver of UK Biobank participants who reported using alcohol.
This study found a monotonic association of higher alcohol consumption with lower normalized brain volume across the range of alcohol intakes (–1.7 × 10−3 ± 0.76 × 10−3 per doubling of alcohol consumption, p=3.0 × 10−14). Alcohol consumption was also associated directly with measures of left ventricular mass index and left ventricular and atrial volume indices. Liver fat increased by a mean of 0.15% per doubling of alcohol consumption.
The results imply that there is not a ‘safe threshold’ below which there are no toxic effects of alcohol. Current public health guidelines concerning alcohol consumption may need to be revisited.