Alcohol and health


Alcohol consumption has various effects on health, with several negative impacts being noted by the .

  1. Brain Degeneration: Even low to moderate alcohol consumption can cause thinning of the neocortex and other brain regions, hinting at loss of neurons and reduction in brain volume. This effect is dose-dependent and scales with the amount of alcohol consumed 1 2.

  2. Impact on Hormones: Alcohol increases the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in both men and women, affecting aspects such as libido, sexual development, and other physiological functions. This process, called aromatization, can lead to a higher risk of estrogen-related cancers and hormonal imbalances 3.

    Alcohol and Brain Degeneration

    Andrew discusses a recent study that looked at the effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption on brain degeneration. The study found evidence of thinning of the neocortex, even for those who drank one or two drinks per day. Chronic alcohol intake, even at low levels, can disrupt the brain.

    Huberman Lab

    What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health | Huberman Lab Podcast #86
  3. Increased Cancer Risk: Alcohol consumption is linked to a significant increase in the risk of various cancers, especially breast cancer. The toxic byproducts of alcohol affect gene expression and DNA methylation, which can trigger cell mutations leading to uncontrolled cell proliferation 4 5 6.

  4. Effect on Behavior: Alcohol suppresses the activity of neurons in the prefrontal cortex associated with impulse control, leading to increased volume in speech, impulsive behavior, and a decrease in top-down inhibition. It also impairs memory formation and storage 7.

  5. Future Outlook: There's a comparison made between alcohol and smoking, and it's anticipated that the prevalent view of alcohol's health impact may shift, potentially leading to restrictions similar to those we've seen with smoking in healthcare systems and educational institutions 8.

It’s emphasized that the best amount of alcohol to drink for one's health would be none, but if individuals choose to drink, awareness of these negative impacts and measures to offset them are important 2. Additionally, intake of folate and other B vitamins may partly offset some of the cancer risks associated with alcohol but are not a guaranteed method of prevention 5.