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No amount of alcohol safe for the brain: research

Even moderate drinking can have damaging effects on the brain, new research has found.

Scientists from the university of Oxford analysed the health profiles of 25,378 people, including their age, sex, BMI, blood pressure, self-reported alcohol consumption, and brain health from MRI scans.

They found a higher quantity of weekly alcohol consumption was associated with lower brain grey matter density, even after considering individual differences in biological and behavioural traits. 

The scientists therefore concluded there was no safe dose of alcohol for the brain.

The study, which is yet to be peer reviewed, found that alcohol explained up to a 0.8 per cent change in grey-matter volume, a larger contributing factor than any other modifiable risk. It is four times the risk of smoking or BMI.

“There’s no threshold drinking for harm – any alcohol is worse. Pretty much the whole brain seems to be affected – not just specific areas, as previously thought,” says the lead author, Anya Topiwala, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Oxford, reports the Guardian.

UK alcohol guidelines recommend that men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week. A unit in the UK is equivalent to 8g of pure alcohol.

Topiwala said the study showed evidence of harm below that threshold.

In Australia, the government recommends no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. One Australian Unit is equal to 10g of pure alcohol.

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