It’s a myth! Drinking Alcohol Doesn’t Actually Kill Brain Cells

We have all had that health class where the motto for about a month was “alcohol is bad!” It does all these horrible things to your body including killing brain cells. There really isn’t any disputing the fact that alcohol is bad for you and it does horrible things to your body, but one of those horrible things might just be a myth.

So wait, where did this idea that alcohol kills brain cells come from? Like many inadvisable substances at very high doses, alcohol can kill brain cells. How high of a dosage of alcohol is needed to kill brain cells? Well, this amount of alcohol would kill you before it gets to your brain cells. So even the heaviest of drinkers really aren’t killing brain cells in their lifetime.

Debunking this myth all started with a study in 1993 by Grethe Jensen. Jensen did an observational study in which he counted the neurons in a group of deceased alcoholics and deceased non-alcoholics. Jensen found that the difference in neurons was non-existent between the two groups.

So could this study have been a false positive? It is possible, but many studies similar to this have been conducted since  with similar results backing up the findings. A meta-analysis was conducted in 2009 which helped debunk the myth with its findings amongst many studies suggesting alcohol does not kill brain cells.

Why would there have been a belief that alcohol kills brain cells in the first place? Remember that alcohol is a disinfectant and has the ability to kill bacteria and cells. However, this fact alone is not enough to leave the impression it kills brain cells. The fact that alcohol affects on the brain can be debilitating probably could lead to the conclusion it has permanent affects on brain cells. Yet, studies suggest otherwise.

The fact of the matter is, alcohol consumption at a humanly possible level does not kill brain cells. Still, keep in mind, alcohol has other damaging affects on the body which have not been disproved… yet.



6 thoughts on “It’s a myth! Drinking Alcohol Doesn’t Actually Kill Brain Cells

  1. Caroline Schablin Mcfadden

    This title caught my eye and was a very interesting blog. I like how you mentioned meta-analysis and the potential for a false positive, they help you to establish credibility. I was looking more into this idea and found a post in the New York Times which talked about how many studies have linked mental deficits and heavy drinking. This article agrees that alcohol does not kill brain cells but shows studies that found that alcohol can impair brain function. I thought that was really interesting, so maybe there is a bit of truth in the old myth.

  2. Amanda M Mitchell

    I enjoyed that you chose a topic that will certainty catch the eye of our fellow classmates. Especially now that we are more than half way through our first semester of college and have a broader range of experiences and understanding with consuming alcohol. I found it interesting that you challenged the effects of alcohol in the long run, but not in the short run. Also that you never mentioned aspects of the 1993 and 2003 studies that could possibly effects results.

    I know that your article centered around the question of alcohol consumption and if it killed brain cells, but I feel you could have included more into your blog. After disproving the myth using meta-analysis, something you could have possibly done was discuss other “damaging effects” and then do a comparison of a certain damaging effect vs. brain cell loss. For example alcohol consumption can effect the heart by inducing strokes, high blood pressure, and arrhythmias. I know personally the effects of arrhythmias, throughout high school I was unable to play sports, constantly missed class and events to go to the doctor, and scared my family constantly when I would develop an irregular heart beat and be unable to make it stop. Sure, I never lost brain cells, but I did lose being a normal high school girl. I didn’t develop arrhythmias through consuming too much alcohol, but for the people that do I would personally stay that it is worse than losing brain cells in the long run.

    Things that your blog never mentioned where confounding variables such has the roll of gender and age with alcohol consumption. Yes, the deceased showed no difference in the amount of neurons they had, alcoholics or not, but these people could have suffered through other things that had made them equally lose cells throughout their life. I think you should expand your blog on the type of people that the study tested their neuron count and what kind of life they lived.

  3. Daniel Liam Cavanaugh

    This was an interesting article, particularly the title, which grabbed my attention right away. Mentioning the meta-analysis was effective in that it further validated your main argument, but you could have gone into more detail on the meta-analysis. Mentioning the possibility of the effect of chance or confounding variables (because this was an observational study) on the study would have helped, too. Also, you could have mentioned the file drawer problem’s possible effect on the meta-analysis. To expand on this topic, I have two suggestions. One is to further touch on alcohol’s effects on the body, good or bad. All I know now is that alcohol negatively affects the liver. You could specialize on one negative effect or choose various studies on various effects. As an example, you could use one study on its effect on liver, one on its possible effect on increasing odds of gastric cancer, one on another possible effect, etc. My other suggestion, which I prefer, would be to address marijuana’s effect on brain cells in your next blog. Before reading this blog, I also thought that marijuana kills brain cells, but now I am not so sure.

  4. lmm6078

    Very interesting article. Obviously, just because it hasn’t been proven that alcohol kills brain cells, doesn’t mean it’s safe to consume in large doses. I would like you to take a look at the article i will post at the bottom, for it gives a whole synopsis on the affects of alcohol on the body. Even though brain cells aren’t in danger, the risk of cancer and arthritis rises due to alcohol consumption. An interesting piece about the correlation between alcohol consumption and the two could help give this article that extra boost, in terms of how alcohol can affect the body, other than in the brain!

  5. tkm5196

    This was a really well written article! I’m sure all of our parents taught us as kids that alcohol killed brain cells, I just always assumed they were right because they were older than me and knew better! I see now that that isn’t the case. However, did you know that it has been found that alcohol does slightly cause Breast Cancer ? This study shows a correlation between drinking and Breast Cancer, and also sites other studies that claim to have found a mechanism. My question is which would you think is worse, killing brain cells or the risk of getting cancer?

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