Skip to comments.Does Drinking Kill Brain Cells?
Posted on 04/02/2013 10:43:20 PM PDT by Slings and Arrows
Reader Scott wrote in to ask, Does alcohol kill brain cells?
Oh, Lisa, you and your stories. Bart is a vampire. Beer kills brain cells. Now lets go back to that building thingy, where our beds and TV is. - Homer Simpson
Watch someone after theyve had a few drinks, and youll find evidence that alcohol does something to their brain. They stumble, slur their words, lose control of their emotions, and forget things.
Some people have tried to explain this behavior as the aftermath of cell death caused by alcohol. Often, its packaged as a neat factoid like Three beers kill 10,000 brain cells.
Now, ethyl alcohol (the kind found in boozy beverages, also known as ethanol) can kill cells and microorganisms. Thats what makes it an effective antiseptic. Your brain contains a few billion cells called neurons that send electrical and chemical messages between it and the other parts of the body. Obviously, you dont want these little guys dying en masse.
Fortunately, when you drink alcoholic beverages, your body tries not to let all of that ethanol roam around unchecked. Rather, your liver processes it and converts it into less toxic stuff. The liver can only work so fast, though, processing about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits per hour. If youre knocking drinks back fast enough that your liver cant keep up, the excess alcohol hangs out in the blood and travels through the body until it can be processed.
When this alcohol reaches the brain, it doesnt kill the cells outright. What actually happens, according to Roberta Pentney, a cell biologist who studied alcohol and brain function for decades at SUNY Buffalo, is that the alcohol damages the parts of the cells that send and receive information. This causes problems with the way the cells communicate with each other and results in some of the impairments of intoxication.
Researchers at Washington University found that alcohol, even when applied directly to neurons, didnt kill them. Like in Pentneys work, it just interfered with the way they transmit information. Specifically, the researchers showed that alcohol causes certain receptors on neurons to manufacture steroids that inhibit memory formation.
Some alcoholics can experience neuron death as part of a disease called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. In these cases, the evidence again suggests that the disease and cell death arent caused by the alcohol itself, but a deficiency in the B vitamin thiamine and general malnutrition that often go hand in hand with alcoholism.
For moderate drinkers, a number of studies from the last 15 years suggest that, far from killing brain cells, a little tipple is actually associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
I prefer the Buffalo theory
In an episode of “Cheers,” Cliff Clavin, the trivia-spouting, quirky, irksome mama’s boy mailman is seated at the bar describing the buffalo theory to his buddy, Norm Peterson, the beer loving heavyweight bar stool sitting perpetual patron.
Cliff expounds his “Buffalo Theory” to Norm:
Well, you see, Norm, its like this. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, its the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.
In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive intake of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine.
And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers.
In other news...
Liquor gets you drunk.
I drinking think doesnt” killcell brain
Believe it or not, that was pretty much the rationale behind treating schizophrenia with insulin shock therapy.
Drinking doesn’t kill brain cells but it does make them seem more attractive.
This report calls for more beer ! ! !
Nice theory. There’s probably one important attribute to beer that I’ve learned since high school. 5 pints makes any woman look like a Victoria’s Secret supermodel.
Me clicking on link, waiting for article to load:
“Please let the answer be no, please let the answer be no...”
He should’ve asked somebody to hold his beer.
The Drunkest Man In The World:
It made Budweiser! LoL!
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