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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 May, 2005, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
'Alcohol worse for female brains'
Image of girls drinking in a bar
Experts warn more and more women are taking up drinking
Women are far more vulnerable to alcohol-induced brain damage than men, scans have shown.

CT pictures of the brains of more than 150 volunteers revealed how women come to more harm and quicker than men when they drink heavily.

Scientists have suspected for some time that men might be more resilient to booze than women. The German research gives visible evidence of this.

The University of Heidelberg team published their findings in Alcoholism.

Women may be more vulnerable to chronic alcohol consumption
Study author Professor Karl Mann

In the study, around half of the volunteers were alcoholics. All of the volunteers had brain scans at the start and end of the six week study.

Those who were alcoholic were helped to "dry out" during the six weeks.

When the researchers analysed the brain scan results they found obvious evidence of brain damage among the heavy drinkers.

The drinkers had smaller brains, due to loss or atrophy, than the controls.

Brain loss

Women who were heavy drinkers lost the same amount of brain volume as the drinking men, but over a much shorter period of alcohol dependence.

Lead author Professor Karl Mann said although men generally drink more alcohol, women probably develop alcohol dependence and adverse consequences more readily.

Other alcohol-related disorders, such as heart problems, depression and liver disease, also occurred earlier in women than men, he said.

"Women typically start drinking later in life, consume less...and one could reason that women are less affected by alcohol.

"But there is evidence for a faster progress of the events leading to dependence among female alcoholics and an earlier onset of adverse consequences of alcoholism.

"This suggests that women may be more vulnerable to chronic alcohol consumption."

For these reasons, he said it was even more important to spot and treat alcohol abuse early in women.

A spokesman from the Institute of Alcohol Studies said: "This study supports previous findings that women experience many alcohol-related harms before men at the same level of drinking.

"These results are particularly concerning given the rising alcohol consumption in UK women, and the increased risk of alcohol dependence that goes with it.

"This worryingly suggests that alcohol-related damage experienced by women in the UK is set to increase rapidly in the coming years."


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