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Drinking in Moderation Might Not Be Great for You Either, Study Says

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Results showed moderate drinkers were also at ‘increased risk of adverse brain outcomes and slightly steeper cognitive decline’
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Goncharov_Artem / Shutterstock

A medium-sized glass of wine has around two units of alcohol.

In the recent past, some research has suggested that drinking in moderation might not be bad for you; in fact, some have suggested it could be beneficial, like the study that found that drinking a glass of red wine might be as healthy as an hour at the gym. But according to a new study published in BMJ, drinking in moderation might not be great for your health after all — because it could possibly alter your brain.

In the study, researchers analyzed the alcohol intake from participants in Whitehall II, a long-term stress and health study based in London, and found that, just as with heavy use of alcohol, drinking in moderation is associated with hippocampal atrophy, a form of brain damage that affects memory and is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Results showed that the moderate drinking group — those who consumed around 14 to 21 units of alcohol (one unit considered to be 10 milliliters or 8 grams of pure alcohol) per week (or roughly a medium-sized glass of wine a night) — were three times more likely to have hippocampal atrophy in comparison to those who didn’t drink at all. However, when comparing moderate drinkers with heavy drinkers (those who consumed more than 30 units of pure alcohol each week), there was no evidence showing a significant difference.

According to Eric Rimm, a professor of medicine and director for the program in cardiovascular epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health (who wasn’t involved in the study), the sample of participants who didn’t drink alcohol was small, which might have affected the results.

“There are so many other lifestyle factors that are not taken into account in this study, like nutrition. Eating whole grains and fruits and vegetables have been linked with slower cognitive decline,” Rimm told CNN.

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