"Alcohol and your brain: study finds even moderate drinking is damaging"

The researchers in this latest study looked at 300 people between the ages of 39 and 45 to understand the effects of drinking on the brain. Most people in the study reported that they drank at what was considered moderate or low-risk levels (an average of less than 14 units of alcohol a week). Even at this level, there was a reduction in the amount of total brain tissue seen on brain scans. This held true for men and women when other risk factors, such as smoking, were considered.


Well, considering the author of the article… what else would you expect?

Having a broad overview of both clinical and public health aspects of addiction as well as being a frontline clinician working in the community, I firmly believe that reducing harm from alcohol lies not just in the treatment of those already affected by alcohol, but also a reduction in the availability of cheap, strong alcohol. My overall aim has always been to ensure that older people can live healthy lifestyles in their own homes. Living healthily with alcohol requires a better understanding of the relationship between alcohol and health.

What do you mean? I don’t get it.

Isn’t the bias obvious?

If you are trying to discredit research, why not attack the actual claims and the methodology, rather than the person behind it? We should always be critical of new research, especially if it comes from a person with bias or someone who has to gain from the results, but we should at the very least be factual. A biased person in itself does not invalidate what they are saying if it’s based on sound reasoning and good experiments.

In this particular example there is a person who previously has done research on how alcohol affects the human body/brain. He came to the conclusion that alcohol is detrimental to us, so he does more research to investigate. But because he now has this prior belief that alcohol is detrimental (his bias), we should not trust him anymore. At least that’s how I interpret it when you are saying:

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I’m not trying do discredit any research here. This is not research but merely an opinion piece written for an online news outlet. The author of the article is not even behind the “latest research” that is cited first in the article. What I meant when I said bias, was this…

I.e., the author of the article is Visiting Lecturer in Old Age Psychiatry, King’s College London and King’s College London in turn gives funding to the very news outlet that published this very article we’re talking about here. This is not an ad hominem attack.

So as already mentioned this is not his research, but simply an article that claims that Alcohol and your brain: study finds even moderate drinking is damaging as per its headline. The actual research (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-70910-5) that is made reference to says however, “Moderate alcohol use is associated with decreased brain volume in early middle age in both sexes.

You can’t just generalize from early middle age to the general population by conveniently leaving that bit out. The research also states:

The aim was to examine cross-sectional association between moderate alcohol consumption and total brain volume in a cohort of participants in early middle-age, unconfounded by age-related neuronal change. 353 participants aged 39 to 45 years reported on their alcohol consumption using the AUDIT-C measure.

However, the rate of age-related brain volume does not occur in a linear fashion, but the decrease accelerates towards old age making the effect of age difficult to control in statistical analysis. Studying younger participants and groups with less age heterogeneity would be helpful.

We studied the association of moderate alcohol consumption and total brain volume in a birth risk cohort aged 39 to 45 years in males and females.

The participants were part of a consecutive cohort that initially included 1196 infants born with various birth risks in a single hospital in Helsinki between 1971 and 1974.

@FlorianMinges does that sounds like the kind of sample that you’d consider representative of the entire population and in turn validates the headline “study finds even moderate drinking is damaging?”

True, and like I said, this is not an ad hominem attack. The next bit of research (https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jad/2016/1539096/) that he uses in his article states in its abstract:

Background . Cognitive dysfunction is a common feature in alcohol use disorders. Its persistence following alcohol detoxification may impair quality of life and increase the risk of relapse. We analyzed cognitive impairment changes using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) score in a large sample of alcohol-dependent inpatients hospitalized for at least 4 weeks.

@FlorianMinges is it fair to say that alcohol-dependent and general population is also not the same thing?

So, I have no problem with either of the two research articles that I’ve linked to above in and by themselves. I do take issue with somebody “hiding” them in their “news article” (they’re actually linked there too) to support a claim that is not supported by either of the two.

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Well, alcohol is a poison. You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to understand that, lol.

What exactly do you mean by that?

The Conversation is funded by universities.

I just thought the article might interest people here.

Here is some more reading for anyone who is interested in the topic.