Regular consumption of alcohol, even in moderate levels, can adversely affect young people, especially girls -- both their metabolism as well as volume of grey matter, a study has found.
The findings showed that drinking may be associated with changes in the metabolite profile which includes reduced brain grey matter -- involved in muscle control, sensory perception, self control.
The risk of these changes was found to be higher among heavy drinking adolescent girls.
"The study observed metabolite profile changes even in young people who consumed alcohol at a level that is socially acceptable," said Noora Heikkinen from the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.
Moreover, heavy-drinking adolescents also showed increased concentrations of 1-methylhistamine -- formed in the brain from histamine produced by immune responses --, which, in turn, was associated with reduced brain grey matter volume.
"Our findings suggest that the production of histamine is increased in the brains of heavy-drinking adolescents. This observation can help in the development of methods that make it possible to detect adverse effects caused by alcohol at a very early stage," Heikkinen said.
"Possibly, it could also contribute to the development of new treatments to mitigate these adverse effects."
In the study, published in the journal Alcohol, the team analysed data on metabolite profiles from heavy and light drinking young adults. They also used MRI to measure their grey matter volumes.
The study sheds light on biological implications of adolescent drinking, and could contribute to the development of new treatments, the researchers said.