There are three key stages of life when even small amounts of alcohol can do significant damage to the brain, researchers have said.
Teams from King’s College London and the University of New South Wales in Australia say “dynamic brain changes” are normally underway when babies are in the womb, during late adolescence and when people hit their mid-60s.
But drinking alcohol during these age milestones have been found can have lasting damage.
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The researchers said: “In older people, alcohol use disorders were shown to be one of the strongest modifiable risk factors for all types of dementia.
“Even moderate drinking was shown to be associated with small but significant loss of brain volume in mid-life.”
It is thought about 10% of expectant mothers drink alcohol over the course of their pregnancy, which the research team has proven is a critical time for the child’s brain development.
Heavy alcohol consumption causes a condition shrinks the brain and leads to memory loss and slow thinking, but even low or moderate alcohol consumption can cause psychological and behavioural problems in babies once they are born.
For teens who are aged between 15 and 19 and occasionally indulge in some binge drinking activity, they are putting themselves at risk of reducing their brain volume and poorer white
Dr Tony Rao, a researcher in alcohol use and dementia at King’s, said: “For pregnancy, there is no safe limit. For older people, we now know that even drinking at low-risk levels may be associated with brain damage.
“There needs to be more investment in alcohol screening. And we need a better public awareness of the possible damaging effects of alcohol on the brain at opposite ends of the lifespan.”