No Safe Level of Alcohol Use for Brain Health?

June 12, 2021
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Yesterday I was sent a report of a “preprint article” about some interesting research results. 

(The report states a preprint article is one that has not yet been peer-reviewed or evaluated and should not be used to guide clinical practice). 

The article reported on a study that asks and answers if there is a “safe level of alcohol consumption for brain health”?

First, the authors summarized the existing state of the literature on this topic by noting that the level of alcohol intake required to cause brain harm is not known – and this was part of the reason they undertook their research project.    

After reviewing brain imaging (functional MRI) data for 25,378 participants the authors found, among other results, that alcohol consumption was associated with reduced grey matter volume and white matter micro-structure. In conclusion the authors state,

No safe dose of alcohol for the brain was found.  Moderate consumption is associated with more widespread adverse effects on the brain than previously recognized…Current ‘low risk’ drinking guidelines should be revisited to take account of brain effects.”

Over the last several years, I’ve taken particular interest in studies that fall under the concept I call “Harms of Use.”  The simple harms of simple use are generally interesting to me. 

One project I undertook on the topic of Harms of Use required gathering and studying a number of research reports on the topic.  That list of references is here. I have already added the research report above to my growing archive of these kinds of studies.

Readers of Recovery Review might recall that in my Stages of Healing series I asked what brain healing should and should not be expected – when particular medications are given. 


Topiwala,A., Ebmeier, K. P., Maullin-Sapey, T. & Nichols, T. E.  (2021).  No safe level of alcohol consumption for brain health: observational cohort study of 25,378 UK Biobank participants. medRxiv. 10.1101/2021.05.10.21256931

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