The morning after an excessive night of drinking, a disquieting malaise often overtakes people. Part of it is the very physical effects of a hangover. The other part is the feeling of guilt associated with the knowledge that you just did terrible things to your body. Namely: destroying a bajillion brain cells. But does science back that up? Today, our friends over at Hacker News point to an article at Misconception Junction which begs to differ.
The quantity of alcohol you could possibly take in, without killing yourself, does not introduce enough alcohol into your bloodstream to kill brain cells. This was proven by a study by Grethe Jensen and co. (1993), who meticulously counted neurons in matched samples of non-alcoholics and alcoholics. What they found was that there was no real difference in the density or overall number of neurons between the two groups. Various other research since has backed up Jensen’s findings. Thus, even alcoholics who are continually taking in unhealthy amounts of alcohol aren’t going to see brain cells die because of their drinking problem. However, alcohol does have other effects on the brain, both positive and negative, that have nothing to do with brain cells dying...
Bottom line, alcohol consumed in moderation, such as a small glass of wine a day, can be very good for you. On the other hand, drinking excessively won’t kill you brain cells directly, but is still bad for your brain. Although, your body can compensate, to a certain extent, and repair the damage caused in most cases, at least as far as your brain is concerned, so long as you don’t make a regular habit of it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.