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Drinking any amount of alcohol causes damage to the brain, study finds

Drinking any amount of alcohol causes damage to the brain, study finds

London (CNN)There is no such thing as a “safe” level of drinking, with increased consumption of alcohol associated with poorer brain health, according to a new study.

In an observational study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers from the University of Oxford studied the relationship between the self-reported alcohol intake of some 25,000 people in the UK, and their brain scans.
The researchers noted that drinking had an effect on the brain’s gray matter — regions in the brain that make up “important bits where information is processed,” according to lead author Anya Topiwala, a senior clinical researcher at Oxford.
“The more people drank, the less the volume of their gray matter,” Topiwala said via email.
“Brain volume reduces with age and more severely with dementia. Smaller brain volume also predicts worse performance on memory testing,” she explained.
“Whilst alcohol only made a small contribution to this (0.8%), it was a greater contribution than other ‘modifiable’ risk factors,” she said, explaining that modifiable risk factors are “ones you can do something about, in contrast to aging.”

Type of alcohol doesn’t matter

The team also investigated whether certain drinking patterns, beverage types and other health conditions made a difference to the impact of alcohol on brain health.
They found that there was no “safe” level of drinking — meaning that consuming any amount of alcohol was worse than not drinking it. They also found no evidence that the type of drink — such as wine, spirits or beer — affected the harm done to the brain.
However, certain characteristics, such as high blood pressure, obesity or binge-drinking, could put people at higher risk, researchers added.
“So many people drink ‘moderately,’ and think this is either harmless or even protective,” Topiwala told CNN via email.
“As we have yet to find a ‘cure’ for neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, knowing about factors that can prevent brain harm is important for public health,” she added.

No safe limit

The risks of alcohol have long been known: Previous studies have found that there’s no amount of liquor, wine or beer that is safe for your overall health.
Alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide in 2016, accounting for nearly one in 10 deaths, according to a study published in The Lancet in 2018.
“While we can’t yet say for sure whether there is ‘no safe level’ of alcohol regarding brain health at the moment, it has been known for decades that heavy drinking is bad for brain health,” Sadie Boniface, head of research at the UK’s Institute of Alcohol Studies, told CNN via email.
“We also shouldn’t forget alcohol affects all parts of the body and there are multiple health risks,” said Boniface, who was not associated with the University of Oxford study.
Tony Rao, a visiting clinical fellow in Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College London, told CNN that given the large sample size, it was unlikely the study’s findings could have arisen by chance.
Rao said the study replicates previous research that has shown there is no safe limit in the level of alcohol consumption for its role in damage to the structure and function of the human brain.
“Previous research has found that subtle changes which demonstrate damage to the brain can present in ways that are not immediately detectable on routine testing of intellectual function and can progress unchecked until they present with more noticeable changes in memory,” he said.
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“Even at levels of low-risk drinking,” he said, “there is evidence that alcohol consumption plays a larger role in damage to the brain than previously thought. The (Oxford) study found that this role was greater than many other modifiable risk factors, such as smoking.”
“The interaction with high blood pressure and obesity on increasing the damage done by alcohol to the brain emphasizes the wider role of diet and lifestyle in maintaining brain health,” he added.
Deceased Israeli soldier boasted about raping Palestinian woman
Deceased Israeli soldier boasted about raping Palestinian woman
Relatives of Israeli soldier Omer Tabib, 21, mourn during his funeral at the cemetery in the northern Israeli town of Elyakim, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo)

An Israeli soldier who became the first casualty of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during the latest round of violence against the Palestinians had previously boasted about raping a Palestinian woman in a social media post, revealing yet another dirty chapter in the decadeslong conflict.

Staff Sgt. Omer Tabib, 21, was killed in an anti-tank missile attack near the Gaza Strip Wednesday, marking the first Israeli military death in the recent clashes sparked by Israeli plans to unlawfully evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

As Israeli forces and far-right groups attacked the Haram al-Sharif complex housing the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, protests and clashes soon spread to other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories including the Gaza Strip. In response, Palestinian resistance groups based in the long blockaded strip started launching rocket attacks against Israel, killing eight people, including civilians. Israel stepped up its violence and struck various targets in Gaza, killing over 120 people, with children constituting a quarter of fatalities, in addition to more than 500 injured.

Israeli authorities blamed Hamas for the attack that killed Tabib and critically wounded another soldier. A third officer was moderately injured. The military wing of Hamas had earlier announced it had targeted an Israeli military jeep across from northern Gaza with a missile and released a video of the attack.

However, as the IDF broke the news on Twitter, social media users were quick to look for information surrounding Tabib. A disturbing revelation came from Talib’s own Twitter account @OmriBenLulu, in which he claimed to have raped a Palestinian woman in a post dating back to Aug. 8, 2019.


This screengrab from Twitter shows the conversation in which deceased IDF personnel Omer Tabib claims to have raped a Palestinian woman.
This screengrab from Twitter shows the conversation in which deceased IDF personnel Omer Tabib claims to have raped a Palestinian woman.


It is not clear whether Tabib actually assaulted a Palestinian woman or “joked” about it, seemingly in response to a pro-Palestinian account’s offensive post accusing him and other soldiers in the IDF of doing drugs and being “child murderers” and “baby killers.”

It is also not clear whether the IDF, where Tabib was serving as part of his compulsory military service when he posted the tweet, launched an investigation on Tabib’s post.

On Thursday, Tabib was laid to rest in his northern Israeli hometown of Elyakim, which is mainly populated by people of Yemeni Jewish descent. Hundreds of locals and IDF personnel took part in the funeral ceremony for Tabib, who was reportedly weeks away from his discharge.


Israeli soldiers shoot during the funeral of Israeli soldier Omer Tabib, 21, at the cemetery in the northern Israeli town of Elyakim, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo)


The @OmriBenLulu account’s tweets are currently protected, and the account seems to have been hacked by figures hostile to him.

Following the attack, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on a preliminary army probe that found the vehicle was using a road not suitable for the military since it is exposed toward the Gaza Strip.

IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman, who was quoted by the Times of Israel newspaper, said the soldiers behaved incorrectly by parking their jeep where they did. However, the same report also included the remarks of IDF Southern Command Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, who said the attack was a result of the battle and topography.