"So many people drink 'moderately,' and think this is either harmless or even protective," lead author Anya Topiwala, a senior clinical researcher at Oxford, said

By Katie Campione
May 20, 2021 11:51 PM
Advertisement
drinks
Credit: getty

A new observational study from the University of Oxford has found that there is no level of alcohol consumption that is considered "safe" for brain health.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, studied the relationship between self-reported alcohol consumption in about 25,000 U.K. residents and the amount of gray matter in their brain scans.

Researchers determined that alcohol consumption "was linearly negatively associated with global brain gray matter volume" — meaning that even small amounts of alcohol intake correlated to less gray matter.

Gray matter is the "important bits where information is processed," lead author Anya Topiwala, a senior clinical researcher at Oxford, told CNN.

Decreased gray matter volume can lead to worse performance with memory testing and happens naturally with age, she explained.

However, alcohol consumption also proved to speed up that process more than other "modifiable' risk factors," which are ""ones you can do something about, in contrast to aging."

Individuals who binge drink, or who have high blood pressure or high BMI, are more adversely affected by alcohol, the study also concluded.

There was also no evidence that there was a differential effect between wine, beer or liquor.

"So many people drink 'moderately,' and think this is either harmless or even protective," lead author Anya Topiwala, a senior clinical researcher at Oxford, told CNN.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday.

She continued, "As we have yet to find a 'cure' for neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, knowing about factors that can prevent brain harm is important for public health."

In America, a 2020 study published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while the overall rates of binge drinking fell slightly between 2011 to 2017 — from 18.9 percent to 18 percent — the amount of alcohol consumed by binge drinkers increased by 12 percent.

A study of more than 1 million people in 2018 found that heavy drinking is the biggest risk factor for developing dementia, while another study determined that heavy alcohol consumption raises the risk of heart disease and aneurysms.