Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical Alcohol and Brain Cells

  1. Oct 6, 2006 #1
    There's a common belief that every glass of alcohol you drink kills a certain number of brain cells.

    This is a myth I thought I'd clear up here, one that results from a severe condition sometimes seen in chronic alcoholics called Wernicke-Korsakov's Syndrome.

    http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/wernicke_korsakoff/wernicke-korsakoff.htm


    The alcohol, itself, is not killing any neurons. The problem is that chronic drinking causes malabsorption of thiamine, coupled with the fact that many chronic alcoholics eat erratically and poorly. It is thiamine (vitamin B-1) deficiency that causes the neurological problems, not the consumption of alcohol itself. Alcohol doesn't kill brain cells.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2006 #2

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    So my propensity to imbibe exorbitant amounts of alcohol is not the cause of my confabulations.
     
  4. Oct 6, 2006 #3
    Your confabulations are the direct result of the exorbitant amounts of alcohol you imbibe. But all those gallons of alcohol you drink every week aren't directly killing brain cells. Your prolonged alcohol abuse, however, coupled with poor nutritional habits, is causing a thiamine deficiency, which in turn damages parts of the brain:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korsakoff's_syndrome

    And this, in turn, is causing your confabulations.

    My point in posting this is to straighten out the misinformation about alcohol frequently repeated by pot smokers. They seem to believe that any amount of alcohol you drink kills a certain number of neurons. The picture they paint is of alcohol getting into the brain through the bloodstream and physically poisoning and destroying neurons. By this erroneous logic, every beer or glass of wine a person has contributes to a growing neuronal deficit. That, however, is really not the case.
     
  5. Oct 6, 2006 #4

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I chemist or biologist (he worked at a marine research center) once told me that a drink or two a day is good for you, especially if its whine, but a nutritional beer is good too. Lots of friends homebrew around here.
     
  6. Oct 6, 2006 #5

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    We are doing some research at my university about the effects of whine on brain cells. We are currently recruiting parents of teenagers for the study.
     
  7. Oct 6, 2006 #6
    Yes, no one should take what I posted as an argument that whine is good for you. The alleged therapeutic benefits of a good whine are apparently still being studied.
     
  8. Oct 6, 2006 #7

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    he gave two reasons. One is in the realm of study, the other's a bit more subjective.

    1) it increases blood flow and stimulates your circulatory system.

    2) it's 'uplifting to the spirit' by which I think he meant psycholgically pleasing (assuming you don't drink too much)

    edit: oh my, how embarassing, I just realized you've gone and carried my mispelling to a whole new level and I played right into it. Good show, chaps.
     
  9. Oct 6, 2006 #8

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    It's commonly believed that the detrimental effects of whine can be significantly reduced by the consumption of wine. :wink:

    Zoob, what you posted is very interesting. (getting back on topic)
     
  10. Oct 6, 2006 #9
    We often hear winos whine this, yes.
    Yes, here's another, more detailed, rundown:

    http://korcare.co.uk/medical.html
     
  11. Oct 6, 2006 #10

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

  12. Oct 6, 2006 #11
    Take some vitamin B-1. (I'll remind you in ten minutes.)
     
  13. Oct 6, 2006 #12
    Hmmm. This site, with a different spelling of the man's name, has an even better breakdown:

    The next sentence, though, to my dismay, ressurects the spectre of the idea I'm trying to squelch:

    Let it be noted it only says "may".

    Anyway, it continues:
    http://www.healthatoz.com/healthatoz/Atoz/ency/korsakoffs_syndrome.jsp

    ---------------------

    edit to note: This is my 3000th post!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2006
  14. Oct 6, 2006 #13
    Take some vitamin B-1.
     
  15. Oct 6, 2006 #14

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

  16. Oct 7, 2006 #15
    Is there enough B-1 in a multi-vitamin or do you need additional supplements of B vitamins?
     
  17. Oct 8, 2006 #16
    From the link in post #9 above:

     
  18. Oct 8, 2006 #17

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    I think Larkspur was asking about normal daily intake, rather emergency remediation. The answer to that question is that a normal diet should provide the B1 you need, but a B-supplement, if it makes you feel better, couldn't hurt.
     
  19. Oct 8, 2006 #18
    That is what I was referring to. A chronic alcoholic does not have a normal diet so I was wondering if they took a daily multi-vitamin, would that be enough to prevent a thiamine deficiency or would the alchohol prevent absorption of that also.
     
  20. Oct 8, 2006 #19
    So, alcohol doesn't kill brain cells, but what about other drugs, such as marijuana? I've heard alot of myths coming from two different angles, one being that it does in fact kill brain cells, and another that it improves creativity and cognitive ability.

    Which one is true? Or are they both wrong?

    I've smoked marijuana for a pretty long period of time, before I decided to quit. The effect that it was having on me was a feeling of being "burnt out", I was slower to react, lazy, the classical stoner. Is that from having a certain chronic use of the drug? If its used casually, would it have the same effect, as you have been posting about alcohol?
     
  21. Oct 8, 2006 #20
    I haven't read anything on this subject but knowing of people who get drunk every day for years without developing Wernicke-Korsakov's, I think that maintaining a normal diet is enough to prevent it from developing. Such people may always be lower in thiamine than is best for them but don't get depleted enough for long enough to develop this syndrome.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Alcohol and Brain Cells
  1. Brain cells (Replies: 9)

Loading...