Moderate drinking can damage the brain

Researchers noted people who drank the most had the highest risk of hippocampal atrophy a form of brain damage

Furthermore, people drinking more than seven units of alcohol per week experienced a faster decline in language fluency over the study compared to those who abstained from alcohol.

The findings do not prove that alcohol was to blame.

It turns out the old moniker of everything being fine in moderation might not be true, at least when it comes to drinking. Researchers want people to question the supposed health benefits of alcohol.

Rimm, who was not involved in the new study, has researched the impact of alcohol for years. But now the study has taken a foot back saying moderate drinking can cause harm to brain cells. The US government defines that as one drink a day for women and two for men.

To study alcohol consumption in the long term, researchers looked into data acquired from 550 subjects deemed to be non-dependant on the substance.

"It measured the cumulative effects of alcohol across the lifespan, with six measures of drinking over 30 years", he said.

The findings were published June 6 in the BMJ.

Topiwala and colleagues analyzed 30 years of records from 527 British civil servants who are participating in a long-term health study. By following the same large group of people over such a long period of time, researchers have gotten important insights into how certain habits and lifestyles affect people as they age.

They then underwent brain scans, more cognitive tests and extensive memory and thinking tests. Consuming one more alcoholic drink per week was associated with a 0.01 percent decrease in the size of the hippocampus. Atrophy in that brain region, she said, is one of the early changes seen in Alzheimer's disease. Hippocampal atrophy causes cognitive and memory dysfunction as a result of hippocampal degeneration.

Drinking 30 units a week on average had the highest risk, but interestingly, even those who drank between 14 and 21 units per week - considered to be a moderate amount - were more likely than abstainers to have hippocampal atrophy.

Here's what that means for your pub visits: Each unit contains eight grams of alcohol, and a standard drink is roughly 14 grams of alcohol. I know I would, I don't drink all the time but if wine, prosecco, or beer is on offer I will more often than not, drink up.

Moderate drinkers also showed a decline in language frequency.

"It shows evidence for "hidden" damage to the brain", commented Paul Matthews of Imperial College London, who highlighted the value of the advanced imaging techniques used. Another recent research carried out by Tim Stockwell, director of the Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria in Canada argues that it is not the drinking behaviour that influences health, rather health that influences people to drink. This part should not surprise researchers, considering that it backs up the findings of previous research.

Eric Rimm, a Harvard University medicine professor and director of the school's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told CNN that moderate drinkers shouldn't give up alcohol altogether based exclusively on the study, saying it did not take nutrition and other important lifestyle factors into account.

US guidelines remain more liberal. Many countries, including the United Kingdom, recommend lower limits for men.

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