Safe alcohol consumption is a myth, study says

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(NEXSTAR) – Do you drink in moderation? A University of Oxford study has some bad news.

The new observational study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, determined that the only safe level of alcohol is none when it comes to brain health.

Researchers used brain scans of 25,000 U.K. residents to examine alcohol’s affect on their gray matter.

“The more people drank, the less the volume of their gray matter,” lead author Anya Topiwala told CNN in an email.

Topiwala said gray matter is responsible for processing information, and regardless of intake alcohol had a negative effect.

“Brain volume reduces with age and more severely with dementia,” Topiwala said. “Smaller brain volume also predicts worse performance on memory testing.”

The Oxford researchers found that there wasn’t an alcoholic drink that was safer than others and that factors such as high blood pressure, obesity and binge-drinking put people at higher risk.

“No safe dose of alcohol for the brain was found,” the study concluded. “Moderate consumption is associated with more widespread adverse effects on the brain than previously recognised.”

“While we can’t yet say for sure whether there is ‘no safe level’ of alcohol regarding brain health at the moment, it has been known for decades that heavy drinking is bad for brain health,” Sadie Boniface, of the UK’s Institute of Alcohol Studies, told CNN in an email. “We also shouldn’t forget alcohol affects all parts of the body and there are multiple health risks.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol intake is responsible for 261 deaths a day in the U.S., more than 95,000 per year.

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