First, when we say 0.8% of gray matter, over what time period does that loss occur? The authors don't seem to know.
Second, what sort of effects does losing, say, 1% of gray matter integrity have? Increased risk of stroke, seizure, etc.? Effects on intellect?
It's all about risk/reward. If losing 0.8% of my total gray matter over, say, my lifetime (I don't know if that's what it is) results in a 1% loss in intellect over my lifetime, in exchange for thousands of hours of happiness resulting from moderate drinking, I'm probably OK with that. I don't intend to live forever. If it were 10% of intellectual capacity... maybe not.
Alcohol is a poison, the only totally-safe dose is 0% - in the same way that the only way to never get into a car accident is to never go outside. But I'd still like to better understand the relative harms before altering my (already reasonable) habits.
> Whilst we controlled analyses for all known confounders and were more thorough in this than any previously published study, we cannot exclude the possible of residual confounding. However, the sensitivity analyses estimated that unobserved confounding would need to be of a greater strength than any recognized observed confounder, including age and smoking, to obviate the association between alcohol and brain health, which seems implausible.
As an informal / heuristic argument, it seems practical to conclude there is some causal relationship.
People who drink alcohol may simply tend to have a slightly different brain structure.
In this regard it would be more interesting to see a large scale longitudinal study demonstrating an effect in the same individual over time.
Combined with population level studies and a demonstrated mechanism, I think that would be fairly definitive.
What they actually found is that of the total variance in the amount of gray matter, they could explain 0.8% of that variance by alcohol consumption.
I would be concerned if my happiness depends in any way on how much alcohol I consume.
Possibly you are confusing momentary happiness/qualitative enjoyment of a given experience with overall life happiness/mental state?
The downside? Dear god have I missed the taste of beer. La Croix and other products don’t fill the gap. There has thankfully been an explosion in the NA craft beer scene in the last few years, and some of them are good enough that I’ve had friends who drink buy them so they don’t have to have a buzz to enjoy the taste.
I’d recommend Athletic Brewing and WellBeing for a first go. The IPAs in particular hold up well.
Edit: Fun thing I've had happen: I got pulled over speeding with an "open container" of one of these beers. The cop became immensely excited when she thought she'd get me for a DUI, demands to see it, I point out it's an NA, she inspects it, and this is followed by silence and disappointment. "Sir, you should probably not drink this while driving regardless".
Tangentially related, I wish I could remember the name of the Dutch tech company that created the “experience” (and have done several others throughout Europe & the US) because they’re really cool and did a great job.
Personally I think Heineken 0% is better than the normal pils.
Not saying it's exemplary, but freshness is probably a factor sometimes
There is perhaps a danger to someone attempting sobriety, from the psychological response to the taste. It'd been twelve years for me when I had my first NA, and I had to take a real hard look at my near-overwhelming OMG YES feeling. Thankfully I just love the taste and am not secretly wishing for a real one.
That alone is pretty messed up. A cop should be annoyed and disappointed to be in that situation. Arresting and booking someone should be a big hassle that they shouldn't want. And let's say you had been drinking alcohol; who knows how long you might have been drinking before you got pulled over... who knows who you might have killed. And a cop is reacting with happiness that they might have gotten you on a DUI? Gross.
If you want to say what you think is important about an article, that's fine, but do it by adding a comment to the thread. Then your view will be on a level playing field with everyone else's: https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&so...
However, the authors think the effect of alcohol is notable because that 0.8% was still larger than any other factor they tested, like smoking.
> Detrimental effects of drinking appear to be greater than other modifiable factors. Current ‘low risk’ drinking guidelines should be revisited to take account of brain effects.
The authors are pretty clear. You are, of course, free to draw your own conclusions.
I.E. you can have a statistically significant but unimportant effect.
Back when I went on week long benders, nothing was worse than the lack of REM sleep. Worse than blackouts, injuries from bumping into stuff, doing regretful things, etc. Waking up tired and needing to go to work is the worst feeling.
That was among people who drank at all; for reference, that's just under two standard drinks per day, which is apparently what the UK considers the threshold of "low risk".
Can someone explain these numbers to me? They claim to measure one “standard drink” (all of which are equal), yet each variant is a different number of units? Furthermore, wine is more (stronger?) than spirits? I must be missing something.
5oz of wine * 12% =
1.5oz of spirits * 40% =
12oz of beer * 5%
so I'm still confused...
Edit: Wait, do you mean the size of a full glass? That's... an odd way to measure things.
You go to the same pub and order a shot of whiskey, and it's about 1.5oz, so it's the same as you think it is.
One of the rare articles that discusses median consumption rather than mean average.
"The more I thought about these data, the stranger they seemed. My 11-drink-per-week habit corresponds almost exactly to the national average, 556 drinks per year. But according to this chart, that number would be grossly misleading, since it combines the huge number of people who never quaff at all with the much smaller group who drink like it’s their job. (Those in the top decile of consumption swig an incomprehensible average of 74 drinks per week.) When I compare my habit to the median instead of the mean, I find that I’m dosing myself with 10 times more alcohol than the typical American."
But the more I read about stuff like this, the more I realize that alcohol isn't special among the various things we call "drugs". It's not good for your physical health, and "everything in moderation" may not really apply to it either. I know several people for whom drinking was destroying their mental health. Why is alcohol legal, when other drugs are heavily restricted? (Those restrictions, sadly, mostly don't work either.)
I enjoy drinking. I like cocktails. I like wine. I don't love beer, but I do find some beers tasty and worth drinking. I find the very occasional night of heavy drinking with a big group of friends to be fun (though I realize that my memory of those nights ends up being hazy to the point that it's hard to really claim it was worth it).
But I also drank a ton of soda when I was a kid, gave it up completely in college, and don't miss it at all. Alcohol should be no different, but the social and cultural pressure around it makes it different.
I've definitely decreased my alcohol consumption over the past 5 years or so, and I'm happy with that decision. I don't think I can bring myself to cut it out of my life entirely, though.
I don't think it's just that. I think it's also that (potentially in quite modest quantities) alcoholic drinks are an important part of/accompaniment to some cuisines, providing a balancing sweetness, acidity, and so on.
I find the idea of steak without a glass of robust red wine terribly disappointing. Seafood soup without a crisp white wine, ditto. Crêpes or galettes without dry cider ... the list goes on ...
Or celebrating New Years without a perfectly crisp champagne, or prosecco. Preferably a Dom Perignon vaguely reminescent of tart green apples. Conversely, he bargain hunter in me loves the liquid sunshine in a hayfield that is Zardetto DOC.
But it is.
Humans are pretty good at metabolizing alcohol. Other species are not as good (carnivores in particular). Why is that?
Every day bacteria in your gut produce alcohol. Every day you ingest it. Some percentage of carbs get converted daily. It's conceivable that our bodies are fine with small amounts.
> Across the Hudson River, in Manhattan, the number of patients treated in Bellevue Hospital’s alcohol wards dropped from fifteen thousand a year before Prohibition to under six thousand in 1924. Nationally, cirrhosis deaths fell by more than a third between 1916 and 1929. In Detroit, arrests for drunkenness declined 90 percent during Prohibition’s first year. Domestic violence complaints fell by half.
I live in a US state where weed is legal, and I was discussing this with a friend: it's starting to seem like a terrible idea to drink at all if weed is available and has lesser harmful effects. For me personally, it comes down to that I'd hate for my kids to see me using weed, but I acknowledge that's pretty silly because they've seen me drink (small amounts of) alcohol. I've got a case of good beer in the fridge that I've whittled down over the last 6 months, and in all objective ways I can think of it sets a worse example for me to drink one of those every couple weeks than to use a similarly moderate amount of weed. My upbringing still insists that weed is a much worse example because it's a "drug".
> "Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife"
Meaning 1.5% of the loss can be explained by alcohol
Following a few references, this paper seems to show a average 20%(!) reduction in brain volume from age 60 to 90: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2690968/ . Don't get old, folks...
The only time I miss it is after some TV series bombards me with episode-after-episode of all day drinking w/o the expected consequences. Otherwise I'd never even think about alcohol.
I'm generally a better living thru chemistry guy, just not w/ alcohol. I'm kind of put off by the stinky breath and how jail feels like it's one drink away.
Has some reviews floating around the internet:
The creator, David Nutt, has a long history of trying to bring attention to the problems alcohol brings.
I do wonder how much is due to the claimed GABA uptake enhancement from the ingredients and how much of that would be attributed to placebo though.
[EDIT] everything I could find with a quick search is about heavy, long-term use only, which evidently has little effect on white matter, and uneven effects on grey matter, increasing it in some areas and decreasing it in others. Nothing about long-term light use, occasional "binge" use, anything like that.
Personal experience is it's one of the few recreational drugs I can't handle as I experience extreme paranoia, rarely terrifying out of body experiences, and always an inability to speak, which is extremely uncomfortable as I deeply value my ability to communicate.
I get those too. After considering it for decades, I'm fairly convinced it's due to my psychological makeup - specifically fearing an unmasked loss of control.
Drugs damage the body and/or to some extent in some way, shape or form.
Don't do alcohol. If you have social pressure, fake it. Like order a beer and don't actually drink it, pretend to sip. I think people need to take this more seriously and start to think for themselves. I know it's hard, we have habits, but it's damaging.
The safer alternative being: don't do it.
If you want drug like feelings, I'd recommend exercising, being in love or sex. I'm pretty sure one is able to get pretty far with dancing on music as well.
Also, alcohol is definitely really bad for you, but an occasional pub visit is hardly going to take years off your life.
In either the still-water or sparkling/soda-water case, just get it in a highball or Collins glass and you'll fit right in. The glass is what sells it. 99% chance you won't be the first one to make this request to a given bartender. Unless they're a jerk they won't charge you for soda water from the bar's tap, and a slice of lemon or lime.
You could also ask for a coke without ice served in whatever they serve jack & coke in (collins glass, lowball glass, old-fashioned glass, could be any of several). Even if someone hears you order any of these, unless they're socially clueless this will signal some things to them and they'll know you are pointedly Not Drinking, for whatever reason, and they won't bug you about it or offer you anything. This is assuming you're around people who care that others aren't drinking, to begin with (I'd still use the specific-glass trick just not to look out of place, regardless, personally).
So in that sense, the comment I made is not so much about the facts, it's more about strategy for optimal health.
Everyone has their own strategy of course.
You can dance without using your knees if you have knee issues.
My point with both of these is: you can patch these issues. When you smoke weed, your lungs will be hit. When you drink alcohol, your brain will be hit.
I agree that with everything we do, there is some form of upkeep. The argument about drugs is that the upkeep might be too much.
One could argue that 0.8% gray matter loss is fine. I'm simply not one of them.
The first time I took space cake I almost got kicked out of a nightclub because I couldn't handle it (in Amsterdam). Space cake is always such a hell of an impact. Taking one puff isn't.
But I guess one could research all of this and find a way to make it so that you can dose quite well and not take the lung damage. In that case, it would seem fine to me.
Telling adults not to use drugs -- don't come for my coffee mug without an army -- is about as reasonable and effective as telling teens not to have sex. However great you think the reasons might be not to do those things, people are going to do them. We've been doing it for millions of years and aren't likely to stop now.
Now I feel a similar effect limited by physical substance intakes would have been a better alternative to that. After all our societies are built with alcohol in mind, including irrecoverable brain damages from it.
It reminded me of my go-to when I don't want to drink alcohol at an event; I'll order a sugar-free Red Bull on ice. It looks like a cocktail, has more flavor than a water, and no hangover.
The reason I didn't is because I assume the average HN'er knows this.
> IMO it's not a great alternative.
Why isn't it?
I'm not implying I disagree, I am simply wondering what you think.