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June 07, 2017

Study: Moderate drinking of alcohol may alter brain function

Raise a glass to the latest health study on moderate drinking?

Not so fast.

Despite widespread research and advice from many doctors recommending a glass of wine or a beer each day to supplement a healthy diet, a report posted Tuesday to the website of the journal BMJ contradicts some of that.

It also shows having two to three alcoholic drinks a day is as much as three times more likely to cause pathological changes in a drinker's brain.

The report cited findings from the Whitehall II study, which monitored disease and social behaviors in a group of British civil servants for 30 years. Those who tipped the bottle the most – more than 30 times a week – had the highest risk of hippocampal atrophy, a form of brain damage associated with memory-loss conditions such as Alzheimer's and dementia.

Those who had between 14 to 21 drinks per week were three times as susceptible to the condition, the study found.

The good news?

The lightest drinkers who consumed less than seven a week saw little change, if any, compared to the abstainers. But researchers also didn't see any evidence that pointed to light drinking having protective qualities for the brain, unlike its effect on the heart.

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 solely on the study, saying it did not take nutrition and other important lifestyle factors into account.

He also pointed out that many studies have shown cardiovascular benefits and lowered risk of type 2 diabetes in moderate drinkers.

Read the complete study here.

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