The science surrounding whether or not drinking is bad for you can be confusing. By some accounts, moderate drinking improves your overall health and lengthens your life. By others, even a couple beers can inflict enough damage for you to worry about it. A new study out of the UK suggests that the latter is probably closer to the truth.
The study, conducted by the University of Oxford, followed the weekly alcohol consumption of 550 participants over thirty years. The study subjects were asked to periodically perform brain tasks. Researchers then conducted MRIs on them to measure their brain functioning.
The end result is a finding that moderate drinkers were three times more likely to experience deterioration in the right side of the hippocampus than people who didn’t drink at all. The hippocampus is the structure in the brain that regulates memory and spatial navigation. Hippocampus atrophy is also a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Moderate drinker” is defined as someone who consumes between fourteen and twenty-one units of alcohol every week. A “unit” is defined as eight grams. The average drink, such as twelve ounces of beer or five ounces of wine, contains about 14 grams of alcohol.
If you drink eight or more beers a week, that puts you in the elevated risk category. If you drink fewer than eight, though, there’s good news – the study uncovered no evidence that light drinking and brain damage.
Moderate and heavy drinkers also suffer from a lower density of white brain matter, which is important for overall cognition. They also experienced more deterioration in their command of language.
Our culture can be willfully blind to the risks of drinking, but it’s important to always remember how powerful a drug alcohol is. It’s toxic to your brain’s nerve cells, causing structural damage that, if unchecked, can lead to serious health consequences. To say nothing of your liver.
Even if you followed the recommended drinking guidelines, of two or less drinks a day for men, you would still be over the line by week’s end.
It makes sense that alcohol is this bad for you, considering the fact that if you drink enough of it, you spend the entire next day feeling like you’re on the verge of death. Next time you’re planning a big night out, you might want to abstain from drinking for a while beforehand, and after. The real solution is to simply not binge drink.