We’ve known for years that by over drinking, we could be doing ourselves some serious damage.
And the general consensus tends to have been that as long as this is in moderation – up to around 14 units a week – we should be fine in the long run.
But according to researchers, even moderate drinking could be damaging our brains and cognitive functions.
Scientists from the University of Oxford and University College London followed the alcohol intake and cognitive performance of 550 women and men over 30 years from 1985.
At the end of this period, they took MRI scans of the participants’ brains and while none of them were considered to be alcohol dependent, how much they drank varied.
They excluded 23 participants due to inaccuracies and other issues, then looked at the remaining peoples’ alcohol intake and cognitive performance over the time period.
Those that reported higher levels of drinking more often had a shrunken hippocampus – the part of the brain associated with memory – particularly on the right side of the brain, and the quality of white matter’s structure was also linked to how much the participants drank.
On one hand, 35 per cent of those who didn’t drink were found to have shrinkage, while 65 per cent of those who drank between 14 and 21 units of average a week had it.
And for those who drank 30 or more units a week, it was 77 per cent..
If that doesn’t sound concerning as it is, those that drank more were also found to perform worse on a lexical fluency test.
“We knew that drinking heavily for long periods of time was bad for brain health, but we didn’t know at these levels,” Anya Topiwala, a clinical lecturer in old age psychiatry at the University of Oxford and co-author of the research, told the Guardian.
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