Posted on Jul 09, 2018, 4 p.m.
Chronic heavy drinking and alcohol abuse has been associated with mental deficits for a long time, and is well documented. Exposure to alcohol during critical periods of brain development can be especially dangerous. But does that wine with dinner or that beer with a friend put you at risk for neural loss?
Some experts say yes it does, and others believe that it does not actually lead to brain cell death. Some studies have found that moderate drinking of certain alcoholic substances can have some benefits such as lowered cholesterol levels.
Comparing numbers of neurons found within non-alcoholics and alcoholics brains one study has found that there was no difference in neocortical neurons between the two. Studies have shown that halting alcohol intake will eventually allow the brain it heal itself.
Long term alcohol abuse and heavy binge drinking doesn’t result in actual death of brain cells according to the researchers, rather it will damage dendrites in the cerebellum reducing communication between neurons. It has been discovered in studies not only does alcohol use disrupt neuron communications it can also alter their structure, but it does not kill off cells.
Alcohol abuse may not cause actual neural death but it can and most does lead to brain damage. Long term abuse can lead to B-vitamin thiamine deficiency that can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome which is a neurological disorder linked to alcohol use that results in loss of neurons, a syndrome characterized by amnesia, lack of muscle coordination, and memory problems.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has noted that there are several factors which can serve to influence how alcohol impacts an individual’s brain such as how much and how often a person drinks, how long the person has been drinking for, overall health, and prenatal exposure to alcohol.
High levels of alcohol can interfere with the formation of new brain cells or neurogenesis. It was believed that adults were not able to grow new neurons until recently, experts noe recognize specific brain regions continue to form new cells well into old age.
Bottom line is that some researchers believe that alcohol does not actually kill off brain cells. That being said it is well documented that it does impair brain function, it can and does lead to neurological disorders, brain damage, and other serious health consequences that should not be forgotten such as pancreatitis, cirrhosis, depression, and even cancer.
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