Drinking just a couple beers throughout the week may be hurting
your health more than you think: Even moderate drinking can damage your brain,
new research from the University of Oxford in the UK suggests.
In the study, researchers recruited 550 people, tracked their
weekly alcohol intake and measured their performance on brain tasks over a
Then, they performed MRIs on them to analyse their brain
They discovered that people who drank moderately – 14 to 21 units
of alcohol per week – were three times as likely to have deterioration in the
right side of their hippocampus than those who abstained from alcohol.
That’s important, since that area of the brain affects your memory
and spatial navigational skills. Atrophy there is also a marker of Alzheimer’s
disease, the researchers say.
Here’s what that means for your pub visits: Each unit contains 8g
of alcohol, and a standard drink is roughly 14g of alcohol.
That’s 355ml of regular, 5% alcohol beer, or 148ml of 12% alcohol
wine. So that means drinking between eight and 12 beers a week would put you in
that risk category.
People who drank more – at least 17 beers a week – showed even
more deterioration in that brain region. They were nearly six times as likely
to show atrophy in their hippocampus than those who didn’t drink at all.
Interestingly, there was no link between light drinkers and brain
deterioration, showing that there doesn’t seem to be any brain benefit to
drinking just a little bit.
Plus, the more alcohol people drank, the poorer their density of
white matter – a part of the brain necessary for cognitive function – and the
greater their decline in specific language skills.
Alcohol and its byproducts are toxic to nerve cells in your brain,
and can cause structural damage in important areas of your brain like the
hippocampus that are used in daily mental functions, the researchers say.
This suggests that even drinking within the recommended alcohol
guidelines – no more than two drinks a day for men – may still contribute to
some brain problems.
This article was originally featured on www.mh.co.za
Image credit: iStock
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