Alcohol Kills Brain CellsThough your brain may feel fuzzy after a couple of glasses of wine, it’s not actually a sign of cell death. Ethanol (the kind of alcohol found in wine, beer, and spirits) does have the ability to damage cells, but the human body has ways of processing it to curb major long-lasting destruction, including in brain cells. Typically, what you experience after drinking are short-term symptoms, which will go away once the alcohol is cleared from your system.
What can happen when you drink, however, is the damaging of dendrites, which are extensions of nerve cells that carry messages between neurons. While this effect of alcohol, which was discovered in 1999 by scientist Roberta Pentney, can alter the structure of a neuron, it does not totally destroy cells and is believed to be mostly reversible.
Of course, there are serious concerns when it comes to drinking and long-term brain health. Exposure to alcohol during critical periods of development (such as in the womb or during teenage years) can cause lasting damage, as can binge drinking during any stage of life.
Specifically, heavy drinkers are at risk for developing a neurological disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a chronic memory disorder that is caused by a deficiency of the vitamin thiamine.
On the other hand, recent studies have pointed to the potential benefits of moderate wine drinking on brain health. As with most alcohol and health concerns, it appears moderation is key.