TikTok Is Freaking Out Over A New Alcohol Study

It's no secret that alcohol can be dangerous when used irresponsibly. Beyond its association with issues like drunk driving accidents, alcohol can have damaging long-term effects on the body, including heart, liver, and pancreas damage, per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Another question that has long been cause for concern by doctors and scientists is alcohol's long-term effect on brain health.

This week, a TikTok posted by Dr. Dawn Bantel, NMD, cited a new study on alcohol's effect on brain shrinkage. The study, published in Nature, reports brain shrinkage in people who engage in just a small amount of regular drinking, defined as about seven drinks per week or one drink per day. The link between brain shrinkage and alcohol consumption is nothing new, but it was previously thought that only heavy drinking could really cause the brain to shrink. A study done at Oxford spanning from 1985 to 2017 and examining 10,000 participants found that people who had four or more drinks per day had about six times more shrinkage in the part of the brain responsible for memory and reasoning than those who didn't drink at all, reports Harvard Health.

What is a "small amount" of alcohol, really?

In the comments section of Dr. Bantel's video, some followers were wondering if seven drinks per week could actually be considered a "small amount" of alcohol consumption. Nevertheless, The Portland Clinic reports that more than seven drinks in a week is the cutoff between moderate and heavy drinking for women. The cutoff is at 14 drinks per week for men. Seven drinks may sound like a lot all at once, but, say, three glasses of wine with dinner throughout the week and then two drinks per night over the course of the weekend may seem relatively normal to many drinkers. It's fewer drinks than the reported average of 9.5 that senior scientific advisor to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Aaron White, told USA Today the average American drinks in a week.

Many commenters were unhappy to hear the new information about the link between moderate alcohol consumption and brain shrinkage, with some reaffirming their decision to continue engaging in heavy drinking. Others thanked Dr. Batel for sharing the study, with one commenter saying, "This is good timing because I've been trying to quit and needed some more motivation."