I recently came across a news headline in an online medical journal geared toward physicians that was so looney, I figured I’d share it today…on April Fool’s Day.
It read: From Cradle to Grave, Alcohol Is Bad for the Brain.
The headline makes it sound like drinking alcohol is always bad for your brain…no matter your age or stage of life.
But that’s not only misleading—it’s just plain wrong. Here’s why…
Always read past the headlines
This misguided article referred back to an editorial published in the British Medical Journal, which tried to pinpoint three periods in a person’s life when alcohol can potentially pose a problem. According to the author, those three periods are during…
- Gestation (from conception to birth)
- Later adolescence (15 to 19 years)
- Old age (65 years and beyond)
So, let’s go through these periods one by one to look at what the science has to say, starting with gestation…
As you know, during gestation in the womb, a baby’s brain undergoes extensive production, differentiation, and migration of neurons. And we know that when a women grossly abuses alcohol during pregnancy, the growing baby can develop fetal alcohol spectrum disorder—which is a very serious condition that can cause brain damage and growth problems.
But the science shows that moderate consumption by the mother does not cause fetal alcohol syndrome or harm development.
In fact, before this prohibitionist mindset began to take hold again in the 1970s, pregnant women would often safely enjoy a glass of wine (or other type of moderate alcohol) with dinner. And we all survived infancy to tell about it. In addition, women in other parts of the world, especially in Europe, still enjoy moderate consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. (Of course, they also know a thing or two about moderation there…not to mention they follow the healthy Mediterranean diet.)
Unfortunately, in the U.S. today, the nanny states (and most mainstream experts) have an extremist approach (and completely skip over moderation) when it comes to alcohol consumption. And they insist women must completely abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.
What’s really worrisome is that doctors with zero tolerance for alcohol are doling out dangerous drugs to pregnant women—when back in the 1970s and 1980s, we were saying not to take any drugs at all during pregnancy.
Indeed, we have moved in the opposite direction when it comes to taking prescription drugs during pregnancy. In fact, today, taking multiple prescription drugs, such as antidepressants (which are dangerous and useless), during pregnancy is commonplace.
Now, let’s move onto the problem with alcohol consumption in later adolescence (15 to 19 years)…
Binge drinking is a problem for teenage cognitive development
According to the BMJ editorial, later adolescence is another period of rapid brain development during which alcohol abuse can cause problems.
And I wholeheartedly agree about the dangers of alcohol during this stage of life on the brain…and in general.
Not to mention, adolescents are far more likely to engage in dangerous binge drinking. In fact, more than 20 percent of 15– to 19–year-olds in high-income countries report engaging in occasional binge drinking—which harms health, no matter what your age! And this behavior can cause reductions in brain size, poor brain development, and deficits in a range of cognitive functions in young adults. Plus, when young, intoxicated binge drinkers take to the road…they pose a serious threat to all others in society!
To make matters worse, a December 2020 update found that the risk of binge drinking rose 19 percent for each additional week of lockdown during the pandemic. (This increase is just another terrible consequence of pandemic panic, which, when all is said and done, will have caused far more misery, disease, disability, and death than the virus itself!)
Now, let’s move onto the last period in life when alcohol supposedly poses a problem, according to the BMJ author…
The science on alcohol and older brains
The BMJ author pointed to research linking alcohol abuse during old age (ages 65 years and older) to ”small but significant” brain volume loss. But then, they back-tracked and admitted that alcohol abuse is very uncommon in older adults. (Probably because the 9 percent of drinkers who have a real problem with alcohol abuse are less likely to reach old age in the first place!)
Plus, several other recent studies show that moderate consumption of alcohol actually helps support cognition in older people. In fact, I’ve often told you about the study showing that moderate drinkers are much more likely to live to 85 without developing dementia than teetotalers!
I’ve always thought that moderate drinking supports cognition (and heart function) because it helps with circulation—sending blood and vital nutrients to the brain (and heart). Plus, it helps you relax and reduces stress, which in turn helps lessen your risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases at all ages.
In the end, when you really look closely at the data here, alcohol commonly poses a significant threat during about five years (or about 6 percent) of the human lifespan (in later adolescence).
So, why don’t we focus on the real problems…like drunk driving, binge drinking, and underage drinking…instead of trying to claim that alcohol poses a lifelong problem and threat to the brain for the entire population?!
But instead of focusing on the real problem where it exists, the new prohibitionists want to ban all alcohol for everyone because of the 9 percent of drinkers who just can’t handle moderation during their adult lives; and because it’s a danger during just 6 percent of the typical human lifespan.
I suppose in the world of the neo-prohibitionist, there is no such word as “moderation.” So, I advise you ignore them and their unfounded notions. Instead, let moderation be your guide. And continue tuning in to my Daily Dispatches and monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter, where I’ll continue reporting on the benefits of moderate drinking.
“COVID-19 Shutdown Fuels Sharp Rise in Alcohol Use.” Medscape, 9/29/20.
“Longer time spent at home during COVID-19 pandemic is associated with binge drinking among US adults.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, DOI: 10.1080/00952990.2020.1832508
“Lifetime perspective on alcohol and brain health.” BMJ 2020; 371:m4691. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4691
“From Cradle to Grave, Alcohol Is Bad for the Brain.” Medscape, 12/4/20. (medscape.com/viewarticle/942041)