Low-Dose Alcohol Can Damage the Brain and Heart

Gillian May

Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash

This may not be good news for some moderate drinkers, but new research shows that any amount of alcohol damages the brain and heart. A new UK study from the University of Oxford employed brain imaging techniques on 25,378 study participants who all drank moderately. The study took place between 2014 and 2020. What they found was that alcohol affected the grey matter in negative ways despite the fact that participants only drank alcohol at lower doses.

And in a 2014 report put out by a the Swedish Society of Medicine, the myth that alcohol is helpful for cardiovascular disease was debunked. It turns out that alcohol causes an increase in blood pressure which is far more detrimental to the cardiovascular system. The report also shows that alcohol has far more detrimental physical effects than was previously understood. The number of alcohol-related deaths and other morbidities should stengthen measures to reduce even low dose alcohol use, the report says.

We live in a society that glorifies alcohol use. The alcohol industry generates billions of dollars in revenue and they have even begun marketing alcohol to higher risk groups over the years, namely women and younger generations. This is all happening despite the research that shows even low dose alcohol can be damaging to the body.

One study shows that women are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol due to genetics, body mass, water levels, and the dangerous interplay of estrogen and alcohol. In particular, women have more detrimental brain effects from alcohol than men do. Something about our genetics causes grey matter disruption under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, women are more likely to get alcohol-related dementia and other cognitive issues.

For younger people, their bodies and brains are still developing. Even low dose alcohol may cause serious issues with that development. Research also shows that young people are still vulnerable to the health effects of alcohol that are traditionally seen in older people. These are conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, liver issues, and cognitive problems.

The UK study also looked at types of alcohol (i.e. wine, beer, liquor) and found that all types equally affect the brain. This debunks the myth that drinking only wine is better for your health. Also, people with established health problems (i.e. heart issues, severe obesity, or a heavy drinking lifestyle) will put them at a greater risk of brain damage from alcohol use.

For a long time, the CDC recommendations have been that women should not drink more than one glass a day and men shouldn’t drink more than two. However, this new research about low dose alcohol should make us question even low dose alcohol as well. The researchers are recommending that the safe drinking guidelines be updated in light of new research showing the negative affects of even low dose alcohol.

What can you do to reduce the effects of brain and physical health damage? Well, if you don’t drink much, certainly don’t start drinking more. Unfortunately, many people who drank very little started drinking more once they heard that alcohol may be beneficial to their heart. The sad part is that most of these people were already worried about their heart health and as such took that advice and ran with it. This new research shows a different picture and one that ought to get out into the mainstream more.

If you do drink, consider dropping your use to very low levels. Although there aren’t solid recommendations that have come out as yet from these studies, it’s always good to be cautious when it comes to a toxic substance like alcohol.

However, if you’re a heavy drinker, it’s best to consult your doctor if you want to reduce or quit drinking. One of the main reasons doctors don’t talk a lot about reducing alcohol is because they’re worried about the effects of withdrawal. For some, alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous and as such, a person should get help to withdraw from alcohol if they drink heavily.

However, if you do drink low amounts, consider cutting that even more in order to protect your heart and brain. At this point, more research is needed to clearly understand the effects of low dose alcohol, but since we are seeing startling trends emerge, it would be good not to take chances on something as valuable as your health.

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I'm a former nurse turned freelance writer. I have extensive experience in administration, frontline care, and education in mental health, public health, and geriatrics. However, after 20 years, I needed a change and always wanted to write. I have personal and family experience in mental health and addictions, so I'm passionate about advocacy and education in those areas. I'm also a traveler, photographer, and artist. I funnel all my various expertise into my writing and hope to provide valuable content that is entertaining and educational. Join my email list if you want to read more of my work - https://upbeat-trader-4181.ck.page/839d0ab3f9.


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