Binge drinking more damaging to men than women, research shows

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Heavy binge drinking is more likely to damage the health of young men than young women, according to new research.

Scientists have found that brain functions in young men and women are changed by long-term alcohol use, but the changes are significantly different in men and women.

They say their findings indicate not only that young people might be at increased risk of long-term harm from boozing, but also that the risks are probably different in men and in women, with men possibly more at risk.

The Finnish research group worked with 11 young men and 16 young women who had been heavy drinkers for 10 years, and compared them with 12 young men and 13 young women who had little or no alcohol use.

They were all between 23 and 28-years-old at the time the measurements were taken.

The researchers examined the responses of the brain to being stimulated by magnetic pulses - known as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which activates brain neurons. The brain activity was measured using EEG (electroencephalogram).

Previously, the researchers had found that heavy drinkers showed a greater electrical response in the cortex of the brain than non-drinkers, which indicates that there had been long-term changes to how the brain responds.

This time, they found that young men and young women responded differently, with men showing a greater increase in electrical activity in the brain in response to a TMS pulse.

Doctor Outi Kaarre, of the University of Eastern Finland, said: “We found more changes in brain electrical activity in male subjects, than in females, which was a surprise, as we expected it would be the other way around.

“This means that male brain electrical functioning is changed more than female brains by long-term alcohol use.”