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22 November 2017

What drinking 8 or more beers a week does to your brain

You don’t need to knock back a lot before the damage starts.

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Drinking just a couple beers throughout the week may be hurting your health more than you think: Even moderate drinking can damage your brain, new research from the University of Oxford in the UK suggests.

In the study, researchers recruited 550 people, tracked their weekly alcohol intake and measured their performance on brain tasks over a 30-year period.

Then, they performed MRIs on them to analyse their brain structure.

Read more: 8 surprising things that happen to your body when you stop drinking booze

They discovered that people who drank moderately – 14 to 21 units of alcohol per week – were three times as likely to have deterioration in the right side of their hippocampus than those who abstained from alcohol.

That’s important, since that area of the brain affects your memory and spatial navigational skills. Atrophy there is also a marker of Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers say.

Here’s what that means for your pub visits: Each unit contains 8g of alcohol, and a standard drink is roughly 14g of alcohol.

That’s 355ml of regular, 5% alcohol beer, or 148ml of 12% alcohol wine. So that means drinking between eight and 12 beers a week would put you in that risk category.

Read more: This is the best type of alcohol to drink if you’re trying to lose weight

People who drank more – at least 17 beers a week – showed even more deterioration in that brain region. They were nearly six times as likely to show atrophy in their hippocampus than those who didn’t drink at all.

Interestingly, there was no link between light drinkers and brain deterioration, showing that there doesn’t seem to be any brain benefit to drinking just a little bit.

Plus, the more alcohol people drank, the poorer their density of white matter – a part of the brain necessary for cognitive function – and the greater their decline in specific language skills.

Alcohol and its byproducts are toxic to nerve cells in your brain, and can cause structural damage in important areas of your brain like the hippocampus that are used in daily mental functions, the researchers say.

Read more: Here’s why booze can make your face red, flushed and swollen

This suggests that even drinking within the recommended alcohol guidelines – no more than two drinks a day for men – may still contribute to some brain problems.

This article was originally featured on www.mh.co.za

Image credit: iStock



 
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