For some time now it’s been widely suggested that having a glass of wine or a beer or two every now and then is healthy for the human body and mind. It’s been said that moderate amounts of alcohol can boost heart health and even stave off chronic conditions such as diabetes and dementia.
But, no study has ever actually proved these widely-believed myths.
This leads most researchers and scientists to believe that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol isn’t actually causing any sort of health benefit, but that healthier people tend to drink moderate amounts of alcohol.
“The bottom line is there has not been a single study done on moderate alcohol consumption and mortality outcomes that is a ‘gold standard’ kind of study — the kind of randomized controlled clinical trial that we would be required to have in order to approve a new pharmaceutical agent,” says Dr. Tim Naimi, epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, we’ve seen quite the opposite. Alcohol has been linked to breast cancer, liver disease, other cancers, heart damage and stroke.
In one study, researchers decided to see just exactly how alcohol affects the human brain as we consume more and more of it. Seven women and eight men were asked to sip alcohol through a straw as they laid in an MRI scanner, drinking the equivalent of three beers.
Six minutes after they had consumed this amount of alcohol, their brain cells had begun to change. They were feeding off the alcohol sugar instead of the normal glucose that our brains use as food.
Other changes included decreases in concentrations of creatine, which fortifies our brain cells, and choline, another component of brain cells. This has led researchers to believe that alcohol, even in moderate amounts, will trigger actual changes to the composition of the cells in our brains.
“Our follow-ups on the next day showed that the shifts in brain metabolites after moderate consumption of alcohol by healthy persons are completely reversible. However, we assume that the brain’s ability to recover from the effect of alcohol decreases or is eliminated as the consumption of alcohol increases.
The acute effects demonstrated in our study could possibly form the basis for the permanent brain damage that is known to occur in alcoholics,” said researcher Armin Biller.
Published in Human Psychopharmacology, another study looking at the chronic effects of moderate alcohol consumption on the brain discovered that increases in alcohol consumption were correlated with decreases in brain volume. This led researchers to conclude that even low to moderate amounts of alcohol consumption is more detrimental to brain health than it is beneficial.
You might be thinking, “But, red wine is chock-full of antioxidants, so it’s okay.” Red wine does contain resveratrol, a very powerful antioxidant, but the alcohol’s detrimental effects outweigh any benefits resveratrol might provide. Not to mention, there are numerous other sources of resveratrol that are safer for us to consume, including grapes, raspberries, mulberries, and peanuts.
If you’re really trying to bolster your cognitive functioning and give your brain a boost, the best ways to do so do not include alcohol.
They do include eating plenty of vegetables, eating plenty of foods that are high in quality omega-3 fatty acids, exercising on a regular basis, and stimulating your brain with activities like playing instruments, brain games, and traveling to new places.