The Effects Of Red Wine And Resveratrol On The Brain
No discussion about alcohols effects the brain would be complete without taking a closer look at red wine, its active compound resveratrol, and the Mediterranean diet.
Which of these or combination of these is responsible for the reported health and cognitive benefits?
Of all alcoholic beverages, red wine has by far the best reputation as a healthy drink due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
And red wine is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet.
But theres no reason to believe that you can isolate red wine from the rest of the Mediterranean diet and expect to get similar health benefits.
Dan Buettner is a National Geographic explorer, renowned longevity expert, and author of the bestseller The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Whove Lived the Longest.
According to Buettner, there are several factors responsible for the pockets of longevity and low incidences of depression and dementia found in places like Ikaria, Greece and Sardinia, Italy.
Its not red wine nor even the Mediterranean diet alone that makes these people the healthiest and most long-lived on the planet.
Its their entire healthy lifestyle package less stress, more exercise, more time spent outdoors, better social connections, and a strong purpose in life.
How Does Alcohol Change The Brain
Alcohol affects brain chemistry by changing the levels of neurotransmitters. One of the affected neurotransmitters is GABA , or gamma-aminobutyric acid. It is responsible for reducing excitability in the brain. Alcohol increases the amount of GABA transmitted, which inhibits the brain to abnormal degrees,
Is Alcohol Related To Brain Damage
Nowadays, modern techniques allow us to record and compare the data the researchers collect when measuring brain damage caused by alcohol in people who are active consumers.
The collected data provided information about significantly reduced brain glucose metabolism, which is the only source of brain energy. Between the brain and blood, there is a special physiological barrier that protects the organism from bacteria, viruses, and toxic products of decomposition.
As an excellent solvent, ethanol easily penetrates through this barrier, enters the brain and accumulates mainly in the small brain. Ethanol affects the small brain, which is responsible for movement coordination and balance. The brain cortex is responsible for the ability to plan something, to think, to make decisions among the many other neuro functions.
Alcohol prevents us from recognizing the objects, making it difficult to focus on something concrete and ultimately causes a problem with memory. In accordance with this, the long-term use of ethanol reduces intellectual levels. It also affects the amygdala and hypothalamus, and thats why people injure themselves without being aware of it until the next day.
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Repeated Drinking Can Cause Damage
The Alzheimers Society in Britain reports that people who drink a great deal of alcohol for a long time are more likely to have a reduction in white brain matter volume, compared to those who do not follow this drinking pattern.
The brains white matter helps signals move from one part of the brain to another. When there is a smaller volume of white matter, some signals could get dropped or lost, and that can begin to look a little like brain damage.
In addition to reductions in white matter, people with a history of repeated heavy drinking can also develop reductions in a portion of the brain known as the hippocampus. This part of the brain helps to regulate emotions, and it assists with long-term memory.
In a study published by The BMJ, researchers found that high alcohol consumption and hippocampal shrinkage were dose-dependent. In other words, the more someone drank, the smaller the hippocampus was.
Those who drank more than 30 drinks per week were at the highest risk of anyone in the study, but even those who drank moderately developed shrinkage.
Shrinkage in this part of the brain could lead to long-term problems with memory, as well as difficulty in regulating emotions or understanding the emotions of others. And this problem with emotions has been associated with another symptom of alcohol abuse.
Which Drugs Kill Brain Cells
Different drugs can have neurotoxic and destructive effects on brain cells. Substances that are associated with neurological damage include but are not limited to alcohol, heroin, amphetamines, marijuana, opioids, inhalants, and cocaine.1,2,5
Drugs can damage brain cells through several mechanisms. Psychostimulants and alcohol disrupt the integrity of the blood-brain barrier , which can change the functioning of your brain cells due to increased permeability . Increased permeability means that toxins can more easily cross the BBB.7
Other substances, including alcohol and inhalants, can cause injury to brain cells due to the way they damage the protective sheaths, known as myelin, that surround nerve fibers. This can cause damage like that which occurs in neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis . This type of damage can affect your thinking, movement, vision, and hearing. The neurological symptoms people experience in this case can range from mild to severe.8,9
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Alcohol Poisoning & Overdose
According to the CDC, an average of 6 people die every day in the U.S. from alcohol poisoning. Many of those deaths are as a result of binge drinking and are not from long-term alcohol use. Just one instance of excessive alcohol intake can result in an overdose, which may lead to brain damage or death.
Binge drinking means to consume a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time and is one of the most common causes of alcohol poisoning. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states binge drinking occurs when an individuals blood alcohol content is at .08 or higher, which is the threshold for legal intoxication in many states.
An overdose happens when more alcohol is consumed than the body can process, causing a toxic build-up. The extreme depressant effect of this much alcohol can cause irregular heartbeat, dangerously low body temperature, and slowed or stopped breathing.
The Mayo Clinic website lists possible indications of alcohol poisoning including confusion, vomiting, seizures, extremely slow breathing , irregular breathing , bluish or pale skin, hypothermia, and unconsciousness. An alcohol overdose is a medical emergency. If suspected, summon help immediately.
So How Does Alcohol Affect The Brain
Alcohol directly affects neurotransmitters, which control behavior and thought. It is both a depressant and a stimulant. Alcohol depresses your movements, speech, and thoughts. The effects are directly related to the amount of alcohol consumed. However, like many drugs, alcohol also stimulates the release of dopamine in your body, which tricks your body into feeling pleasure and can in turn make you associate drinking alcohol with feeling great. The tricky part here, is that the more you drink alcohol to get that feeling, the less dopamine your body releases. Over time, you end up being mentally hooked, forever in search of that pleasurable feeling you think that alcohol gives you. This is where addictions take hold.
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How Does Alcohol Affect A Persons Mood And Personality
As alcohol impacts a persons personality and mood, they may come off like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or go from one extreme to another. They may experience altered perceptions and intensified emotions, such as jealousy, anger, and depression. Alcohol affects emotional reactions and worsens anxiety. Also, alcohol may cause a loss of emotional control. Furthermore, alcohol may cause unpredictable mood swings, decreased inhibition, a false sense of confidence, increased aggression, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal depression. The rate of suicide among alcoholics is twice as high as that of the general population. With decrease inhibitions, a person may be unable to show restraint and might exhibit increased risk-taking behaviors, arguments, violence and accidents, isolation, psychosocial problems, breaks with reality, hallucinations, and delusions.
Adolescents And Genetic Factors
The impulsivity and sensation seeking seen in adolescence may lead to increased alcohol intake and more frequent binge drinking episodes leaving adolescents particularly at risk for alcohol use disorder. The still developing brain of adolescents is more vulnerable to the damaging neurotoxic and neurodegenerative effects of alcohol. High impulsivity has been found in families with a history of alcohol use disorder, suggestive of a genetic link. Thus, the genetics of impulsivity overlaps with genetic risks for alcohol use disorder and possibly alcohol neurodegeneration”.
There is also a genetic risk for proinflammatory cytokine mediated alcohol-related brain damage. There is evidence that variants of these genes are involved not only in contributing to brain damage but also to impulsivity and alcohol use disorder. All three of these genetic traits contribute heavily to an alcohol use disorder.
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Brain Chemistry And Binge Drinking
A look at brain chemistry and structure offers a deeper understanding of binge drinking.
My staff and I have investigated the impact of binge alcohol consumption on frontal lobe neurochemistry and cognition during emerging adulthood and found significantly lower levels of frontal lobe GABA in binge drinkers relative to light drinkers. GABA levels were even lower in those who had experienced an alcohol-induced blackout.
In addition, verbal learning was uniquely impacted by binge drinking between bouts of intoxication.
Investigations conducted using animal models have revealed that adolescents are less sensitive to some of the impairing effects of alcohol, like sleepiness and loss of motor control, than adults.
In adult humans, these impairing effects of alcohol serve as internal cues that tell them they have had enough to drink. Teens, however, are significantly less affected by sleepiness and loss of motor control, and so they end up binge drinking and achieving higher blood alcohol levels.
It can be hard to determine whether a young person, compared to an adult, has been drinking. In general, adults more quickly experience impaired motor skills, but not always problems with memory, when they have been drinking.
Taken togetherand given a lack of sensitivity to the outward signs of intoxication in teensit can be difficult, not only for an adult to know if their teen has been drinking but also for teens to have insight as to their own impairment.
From Cradle To Grave Alcohol Is Bad For The Brain
There is compelling evidence of the harmful effects of alcohol on the brain. The greatest risk occurs during three periods of life that are marked by dynamic brain changes, say researchers from Australia and the United Kingdom.
The three periods are
Gestation , which is characterized by extensive production, migration, and differentiation of neurons, as well as substantial apoptosis
Later adolescence , a period marked by synaptic pruning and increased axonal myelination and
Older adulthood , a period associated with brain atrophy. Changes accelerate after age 65, largely driven by decreases in neuron size and reductions in the number of dendritic spines and synapses.
These changes in neurocircuitry could increase sensitivity to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol, Louise Mewton, PhD, Center for Healthy Brain Aging, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, and colleagues say.
A life course perspective on brain health supports the formulation of policy and public health interventions to reduce alcohol use and misuse at all ages, they write in an editorial December 4 in The BMJ.
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Disorders Linked With Arbi
ARBI is associated with changes in cognition , difficulties with balance and coordination, and a range of medical and neurological disorders. Some alcohol-related disorders include:
- Cerebellar atrophy the cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for muscle coordination. Damage results in difficulties with balance and walking, which is called ataxia.
- Frontal lobe dysfunction the brains frontal lobes are involved in abstract thinking, planning, problem solving and emotion. Damage results in cognitive difficulties.
- Hepatic encephalopathy many people with alcohol-related liver disease develop particular psychiatric symptoms, such as mood changes, confusion and hallucinations.
- Wernickes encephalopathy this is a disorder caused by a severe deficiency of vitamin B1. Some of the symptoms include ataxia, confusion and problems with vision.
- Korsakoffs amnesic syndrome this includes a loss of short-term memory, an inability to acquire new information and confabulation .
- Peripheral neuropathy the bodys extremities are affected by numbness, pain, and pins and needles.
Using Hightech Tools To Assess Alcoholic Brain Damage
Researchers studying the effects of alcohol use on the brain are aided by advanced technology such as magnetic resonance imaging , diffusion tensor imaging , positron emission tomography , and electrophysiological brain mapping. These tools are providing valuable insight into how alcohol affects the brains structure and function.
Longterm heavy drinking may lead to shrinking of the brain and deficiencies in the fibers that carry information between brain cells . MRI and DTI are being used together to assess the brains of patients when they first stop chronic heavy drinking and again after long periods of sobriety, to monitor for possible relapse to drinking .
Memory formation and retrieval are highly influenced by factors such as attention and motivation . Studies using MRI are helping scientists to determine how memory and attention improve with long-time abstinence from alcohol, as well as what changes take place when a patient begins drinking again. The goal of these studies is to determine which alcoholinduced effects on the brain are permanent and which ones can be reversed with abstinence.
Another hightech tool, electroencephalography , records the brains electrical signals . Small electrodes are placed on the scalp to detect this electrical activity, which then is magnified and graphed as brain waves . These brain waves show realtime activity as it happens in the brain.
The P3 component is reduced in alcoholics compared with control subjects.
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Top 10 Foods To Eat Before Drinking Alcohol To Swerve A Hangover
Youve likely been told to line your stomach before drinking alcohol at some point or other and while this is undoubtedly great advice, some foods are better than others at protecting your body from the toxic effects of alcohol.
When we fill our stomachs before drinking alcohol, the food we eat does several things. First, it dilutes the alcohol we consume afterwards due to the water content of the food. Next, the proteins, fats, and fibre slow down the absorption of alcohol while refuelling our bodies with vitamins and minerals that alcohol depletes. This is why the type and quality of food we choose to eat before drinking is so important and can have such a dramatic effect on how we feel the effects of alcohol.
Eating the right type of food pre-drinking can not only help to decrease some of the negative effects of drinking alcohol they can also help to control hunger and balance electrolytes. However, eating the wrong type of food can actually make you feel worse both during and after drinking alcohol, causing heartburn, indigestion, dehydration and bloating not ideal. Were here to give you the holy grail of pre-drinking foods and bring you our top 5 ultimate hangover-fighting recipes to leave you fresh as a daisy the day after the night before.
Lets begin with theTop 10 best foods to eat and uncover exactly why they are so effective:
The Effects Of Drinking On The Teenage Brain
Studies show alcohol increases the chance of risky behavior, especially in teens and young adults. It may also have severe, long-term effects on young brains.
Toren Volkmann of Portland, OR, drank his first beer when he was 15 years old. Like many teenagers, he turned to alcohol out of boredom. It was a way for him to experiment, take risks, and look cool in front of his friends.
What started out as a weekend thing eventually took over my social life, says Volkmann, a co-author with his mother, Chris, of From Binge to Blackout: A Mother and Son Struggle with Drinking . Alcohol is just so alluring, particularly during a time when fitting in is more important than ever before and youre seeking pleasure.
Volkmanns experience with alcohol isnt unique. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , one in four high school students engage in binge drinking every month, meaning they consume four or five drinks over the span of a few hours. The problem: Binge drinking not only increases the risk of fatal car accidents, irresponsible sexual behavior, and acute alcohol poisoning, but it can also have long-termperhaps irreversibleeffects on the teenage brain, according to recent research.
The Teenage Brain Explained
The frontal lobes, which include the prefrontal cortex, control what most of the rest of the brain does. Like a master switchboard, the frontal lobes keep things running smoothly.
The Teenage Brain Buzzed
The Teenage Brain Tracked
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Symptoms Of Alcohol Brain Damage: Is It Reversible
After a big glass of wine, almost anyone feels a little warm and wobbly. Those who keep drinking may begin to slur their words, and they may trip and stagger when they walk. Someone who continues to drink may just pass out and cant respond to the outside world at all.
That same person may awaken the next day feeling a little queasy, and that nausea may be accompanied by a terrible headache. In time, those hangover symptoms wear off, and the person is back to normal once more unless scientists look closely at the brain of that person. Long-term, repeated alcohol use can lead to persistent changes within the brain. Those changes can make clear thinking difficult, and in some cases, the damage cannot be reversed.
Other forms of alcohol-related harm can be cured, but it takes time to make the changes felt.
Alcohol Brain Damagewhat Is Dementia
Dementia is an umbrella term for memory loss, and loss of problem-solving, language, as well as other thinking abilities that are serious enough to interfere with a persons daily life. Despite how many people use the term, dementia is not actually a disease. Instead, dementia simply refers to a cluster of various signs and symptoms that could indicate a number of cognitive-decline illnesses including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- New and unfamiliar behaviors
For more on dementia visit this fantastic resource on the different dementias. Essentially, dementia refers to severe challenges associated with basic neurological functioning like memory, language skills, problem-solving abilities, self-management, and attention.
Many times, people with dementia can no longer control their emotions. It’s not uncommon for loved ones to feel like they can no longer recognize the identity of the person with dementia.
In the most severe stage, people with dementia must rely on other caretakers to support them with basic living needs.
Dementia is most common in older people. In fact, research shows that up to half of all people age 85 and older may exhibit some form of dementia symptoms. However, it should be noted that this doesnt mean its a normal part of the aging process.
There are many well-functioning individuals in their 90’s and beyond who dont show any signs of dementia.
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