THURSDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity caused by heavy drinking can add to brain damage caused by drinking itself, says a new study.
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Researchers examined the findings of different types of brain scans conducted on 54 men in an alcohol treatment program and compared them with each man's body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measurement that takes into account a person's height and weight. The study findings appear online and in the December print issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
"It is commonly believed that it is the large amount of consumed alcohol by itself that leads to brain injury in alcoholics," principal investigator Dieter J. Meyerhoff, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco VA Medical Center, said in a journal news release.
"This is only partly correct. In previous studies, we have shown that alcoholics who smoke cigarettes have greater brain injury than nonsmoking alcoholics. This new study suggests that a high BMI, independent of drinking and smoking, is also associated with brain injury," Meyerhoff said.
"In other words, weight also is related to brain health among those with alcoholism," Susan F. Tapert, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and director of substance abuse/mental illness in the VA San Diego Healthcare System, said in the news release.
"BMI may be a very important factor to consider when examining other potential consequences of alcohol use. Since individuals who consume substantial amounts of alcohol are at risk for obesity, it is important to understand the influence of body fat deposition on the measures we are examining. It could be that metabolic changes resulting from or causing obesity cause harm to the brain, at least among alcoholics," Tapert said.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, Sept. 7, 2010