A study from Oxford University is creating resurgence in the beverage community for its findings on the effect of drinking on brain health. In short: No amount of drinking alcohol is safe for brain function, according to brain formation data.
The observational study, published on May 12, has not yet been peer-reviewed; it is based on a cohort of over 25,000 British participants with an average age of 54. Brain scans were performed to measure the link between moderate alcohol consumption and brain health. The study was conducted by researchers with expertise in public health, psychiatry and clinical neuroscience.
The researchers began with the premise that “moderate alcohol consumption is common and often considered harmless to brain health.” Researchers performed brain imaging using identical scanners on subjects. They found that alcohol consumption is tracked with decreases in brain gray matter as well as white matter. Binge drinking alcohol had additional negative effects on brain structure, in addition to the effect of the amount of alcohol consumed.
Respondents were separated into groups of “never drinkers”, “former drinkers” and “current drinkers.” Brain scans on identical machines detect changes in brain volume and substance.
Researchers found no difference in the effect of drinking between spirits, such as wine versus beer or spirits. Researchers have taken up the popular view that wine is considered healthier than spirits. “We found no evidence to suggest that alcoholic beverages make differences in brain risks,” researchers write. “This supports the hypothesis that it is ethanol itself rather than other compounds in the beverage that are on the biological pathway to harm. The associations of wine-drinking with higher level of education and socio-economic status may explain the apparent health benefits. ”
The impact of alcohol on overall health and the immune system has been on the minds of many recently as more people wonder if they can drink safely after receiving a COVID vaccine. The short answer is yes, the FDA and CDC do not have warnings about mixing alcohol with vaccines. That said, the question gained currency after health officials noted that some studies show that large amounts of alcohol can suppress the immune system.
According to researchers at Oxford University, several questions remain. They did not set the threshold for when alcohol consumption causes harm, or the effect of moderate drinking on brain connection. They speculate that drinking patterns, such as excessive drinking, may exacerbate the impact of drinking on the brain, but they do not have the data to support it.
However, their conclusions were quite clear.
“No safe dose of alcohol was found for the brain,” researchers write. “Moderate consumption is associated with more widespread side effects on the brain than previously recognized.” Researchers recommend that existing “low-risk” guidelines be revised to warn the public about the effects of brain effects.