Even moderate drinking is bad for your brain

Think twice before having that next drink

There was an adjustment in the brains of heavy drinker's overtime but this study found that brains of moderate had alterations too.

Experts warned that the damage from alcohol may start at a lower level than previously thought - and may trigger similar damage to that seen in people with dementia.

Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can damage the brain and impair cognitive function over time, researchers have claimed. A unit is not necessarily the same as a drink - for example, a unit of beer is eight ounces, while a British pint is 16 ounces.

For the study, a 175ml glass of 14% strength wine was considered 2.4 units and a pint of high-strength beer of cider (5.2%) was considered 3 units.

While those consuming over 30 units a week were at the highest risk compared with abstainers, even those drinking moderately (14-21 units per week) were three times more likely to have hippocampal atrophy compared with abstainers.There was no protective effect of light drinking (up to 7 units per week) over abstinence. Now, the government advises men and women to drink no more than 14 units per week (five glasses of wine, for example).

The research team - from the University of Oxford and University College London - said their results supported a recent lowering of drinking limit guidelines in Britain, but posed questions about limits recommended in the United States (US). Most notably, the heaviest drinkers were most likely to have clear shrinkage of a part of the brain called the hippocampus, a change that can precede or accompany dementia.

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They analyzed the information of the diseases and social behavior of many patients from the Whitehall II study over 30 years from 1985 and studied how all the patients cope up with routine brain function tests and MRI scans.

Scientists further quantified that, persons drinking more than 30 units a week on average, were at the greatest risk of hippocampal atrophy and brain damage.

They become "drinking partners", probably because they use alcohol to bond and relax together, the scientists found.

A study in January found couples influence each other's drinking over the years.

And while previous studies have suggested women drink more to keep up with men, the latest study found wives are just as likely to cause their husbands to drink more. Red wine was linked to heart health, and research showed that moderate drinkers actually enjoyed some real benefits.

In particular they say alcohol could be a controllable factor which impacts on people's declining brain health later in life.

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But the authors of the new study, published in the BMJ said their findings support the changes.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on alcohol and health.

Researcher says, drinking alcohol in moderate is not good for your brain.

While the jury has always been out on the bad effects of heavy and binge-drinking, us "moderates" have been smugly sipping away, confident that we aren't doing ourselves much damage.

"An observational study can not truly prove that alcohol causes dementia, but the findings are in keeping with my clinical experience", said Dr. Elizabeth Coulthard, a consultant senior lecturer in Dementia Neurology at the University of Bristol who was not involved in the new research.

'The findings from research on alcohol often generate strong emotional responses, depending on people's own views, preferences and lifestyles.

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At the end of the day, many of us could probably drink a bit less.

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