Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells?

So many people believe the idea that alcohol kills brain cells. It is true that excessive drinking can cause so many problems. But, does alcohol cause brain cell death too? There are people who believe that it is just a myth made popular to keep people from drinking alcohol. The truth is that there are some studies confirming that alcohol may affect your brain cells. In 1990, Harper and Krill conducted a research and found that alcoholics have fewer brain cells as compared to non-alcoholics. Should you believe that research? Is it enough to jump to a conclusion? Keep reading to learn more.

Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells?

No, so long as you drink in moderation. Rampant alcohol use can definitely damage your brain, but that does not happen due to cell death. While alcohol may not kill brain cells, it can definitely damage at least some of your 86 billion neurons or brain cells. These neurons send chemical and electrical messages to other parts of the body, and any damage may cause serious issues.

How Alcohol Affects the Brain

To answer, "Does alcohol kill brain cells?" you also need to understand the effect different types of alcoholic beverages may cause. Ethyl alcohol, which is commonly used in boozy beverages, is capable of killing microorganisms and cells. Its ability to kill microorganisms makes it an effective antiseptic. The good thing is that your body takes control of things and do not let all of that ethanol roam around your body. There are enzymes in your liver that become active and convert ethanol into acetaldehyde and then into acetate. Your body then breaks acetate into carbon dioxide and water and finally expels it.

The problem is that your live has a limit. It can only process about 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits within an hour. It means that if you are drinking heavily, your liver will fail to work efficiently and the excess alcohol will roam around your body.

The excess alcohol in your blood finally reaches the brain. Does alcohol kill brain cells after entering your brain? No, it does not, but it does affect the connection between dendrites, which in turn makes it difficult to send and receive information in the cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of brain responsible for motor coordination, but poor communication between neurons causes typical impairments of intoxication.

What it suggests is that alcohol can definitely affect your brain function, but it does not kill your brain cells. It interferes heavily the way those brain cells transmit information, but they still stay alive.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Some people who drink a lot often develop a brain disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which affects brain function and causes confusion, bad memory, lack of muscle coordination, and eye paralysis. This disorder can kill brain cells, but again, that does not happen because of the alcohol specifically. The main issue is thiamine deficiency caused by Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. B-vitamins are extremely important for neuron health. Excessive drinking can lead to thiamine deficiency because it makes it difficult for your body to absorb thiamine.

Risk of Dementia

Heavy episodic drinking or binge drinking may increase your risk of dementia. However, a recent study has found that you are at a greater risk if you drink heavily and also have a certain gene, the apolipoproteine4 allele. What it means is that if you do not carry this gene, drinking may not put you at a greater risk of developing dementia.

Ways to Control Your Alcohol Intake

Does alcohol kill brain cells? No, it does not. Does this mean you should do nothing to control your alcohol intake? No, this is not the right thing to do. Excessive drinking can cause several health problems, even if it does not directly kill your brain cells. It is important to drink in moderation, but it is never easy to cut back on your drinking if you have been drinking heavily for quite some time. The following tips will help you cut back on drinking.

  • Have a drinking goal in mind. Setting a limit for how much you can drink will always help keep things in control. Ideally, you should have no more than a drink a day if you are a woman, and no more than two drinks a day if you are a man. Take a paper and write your drinking goal on it. Put it where you can see it easily.
  • Keep track of how much you drink daily. You can keep a diary and write down every time you have a drink. Update it for a month or so to notice your drinking pattern with how much you actually drink. This will help you set a better goal and make it easier to achieve it.
  • Do not keep alcohol at home. You are never going to reach your goal if you keep temptations around.
  • Do not drink quickly. Drinking slowly will help cut back on the amount you drink. Always drink water, soda, or juice after every drink to help keep your stomach full.
  • Push yourself to have an alcohol-free day in every couple of weeks in the beginning. Then, take a break for two days and slowly turn it into a week.
  • Let your friends and colleagues know that you are trying to cut back on drinking. This will ensure that they do not push you to drink when socializing. Also, share how it feels to achieve your goals. You may tell them the benefits of quitting drinking and some of them may even join you in the cause.
  • Never skip a meal when trying to quit drinking. When you do not eat, it becomes difficult to resist the temptation of drinking more alcohol. The best thing is to eat 4 healthy meals a day to provide your body with all-important nutrients to help you feel better.
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