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Myth: Alcohol kills brain cells

TRUTH:  We’ve all heard the claim that alcohol kills brain cells, particularly in heavy drinkers or binge drinkers.  Actually, just looking at extremely intoxicated people makes you wonder how brain cells could possibly survive, but they do.

Intoxication results in impaired vision and speech, difficulty walking, slow reaction time, and general disinhibition.  Alcohol obviously affects the brain and can have very damaging effects, but brain cells don’t actually die.  Instead, alcohol damages nerve endings in the brain, causing some loss of function.

It has other effects as well; heavy drinkers are more likely to have a thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency, which is required by the brain for proper functioning.  Most people get enough thiamin in nuts, beans, soy, whole grains, meat, and poultry.


BOTTOM LINE: Alcohol consumption doesn’t kill brain cells but it can do a lot of damage, not just to the brain.  It can effect arthritis, cancer, heart disease, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, kidney disease, liver disease, other nutritional defects (malnutrition), obesity and psychological disorders.



  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Alcohol’s Damaging Effects on the Brain 
  2. Mayo Clinic Alcoholism: Complications 

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