Background: Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with damage to various organs, but its multi-organ effects have not been characterised across the usual range of alcohol drinking in a large general population sample.
Methods: We assessed global effect sizes of alcohol consumption on quantitative magnetic resonance imaging phenotypic measures of the brain, heart, aorta and liver of UK-Biobank participants who reported drinking alcohol.
Results: We found a monotonic association of higher alcohol consumption with lower normalised brain volume across the range of alcohol intakes (–1.7´10-3±0.76´10-3 per doubling of alcohol consumption, P=3.0´10-14). Alcohol consumption also was associated directly with measures of left ventricular mass index and left ventricular and atrial volume indices. Liver fat increased by a mean of 0.15% per doubling of alcohol consumption.
Conclusions: Our results imply that there is not a 'safe threshold' below which there are no toxic effects of alcohol. Current public health guidelines concerning alcohol consumption may need to be revisited.
Funding: See acknowledgements
For this project, UK Biobank has granted access to our team through approved applications with ID #13375 and #18545. Individual-level data cannot be shared with researchers who are not registered as collaborators (https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/enable-your-research/manage-your-project). Guidance on how to apply for the various types of UK Biobank can be found in the following link https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/enable-your-research/apply-for-access.
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: In UK Biobank, ethical approval for data collection was received from the North-West Multi-centre Research Ethics Committee (REC reference: 11/NW/0382) and the research was carried out in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki of the World Medical Association. No additional ethical approval was required for the analyses of the data.
- Edward D Janus, University of Melbourne, Australia
© 2021, Evangelou et al.
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