What harm does alcohol do?


Alcohol has several detrimental effects on the brain and body, as discussed by Andrew Huberman:

  1. Neurological Impact: Alcohol easily crosses the blood-brain barrier, suppressing activity in the prefrontal cortex. This leads to diminished impulse control, louder speech, increased physical activity, and in extreme cases, memory blackouts due to disrupted neural networks involved in memory formation. Chronic drinking, even at lower levels, is associated with brain degeneration, specifically thinning of the neocortex 1 2.

  2. Hormonal Changes: Regular consumption of alcohol can alter hormone levels by increasing the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, which can cause negative effects such as decreased libido and increased fat storage. This hormonal imbalance is more pronounced with regular or heavy drinking 3.

    Alcohol's Effects

    Andrew explains how alcohol affects the brain by suppressing the prefrontal cortex, leading to impulsive behavior and memory loss.

    Huberman Lab

    What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health | Huberman Lab Podcast #86
  3. Cancer Risk: Alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. This association is due to changes in DNA methylation and gene expression triggered by alcohol consumption 4 2.

  4. Overall Toxicity: Alcohol is both water-soluble and fat-soluble, allowing it to penetrate all cells and tissues, where it exerts toxic effects. Ethanol, the type of alcohol suitable for consumption, is converted into acetaldehyde, which is more harmful than ethanol itself 5.

In summary, while alcohol might provide temporary euphoria or relaxation, its long-term effects on the brain, hormones, and cancer risk make it a substance that should be consumed with caution, particularly if one is concerned about long-term health and well-being.