Alcohol is NOT a Health Food


Drinking red wine in moderation, and more recently alcohol, in general, has been thought of as something that can improve one’s health. The constant messaging from the alcohol industry has people feeling they must drink two glasses of wine a day to feel healthy.

SPECT shows brain toxicity from alcohol

In fact, the evidence from our brain imaging studies demonstrates that alcohol is the exact opposite. Even ONE glass of beer or wine per day can be directly toxic to brain function. The SPECT scans of people who drink too much alcohol – more than three drinks a week – look toxic.


Alcohol use negatively affects the brain and body in a number of ways.

It is associated with fatty liver disease, peripheral neuropathies (pain and tingling in hands, legs, and feet), damage to neurons, especially those in the cerebellum, which is involved in physical and thought coordination, and mood. It interferes with the absorption of vitamin B1, which predisposes people to serious cognitive problems. Alcohol decreases firing in the prefrontal cortex, the most human and thoughtful part of the brain. It also disrupts sleep.

Additionally, alcohol predisposes you to sugar abuse, stimulates your appetite, prolongs the time you sit during a meal and is associated with continued eating even though you feel full. Alcohol exerts substantial influence on the circulation in your pancreas, increasing the production of insulin, which can lead to low blood sugar levels, which worsens your decision-making.

And it gets worse. In 2015, the prestigious journal Lancet published a review of 115,000 subjects in which researchers found that although alcohol use decreased the risk of heart attacks, it increased the risk of cancer and physical injuries.

Alcohol is a known carcinogen and associated with 5.8% of all cancer deaths. Jürgen Rehm, Ph.D., Director of the Social and Epidemiological Research Department at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, wrote, “Very simply, the cancers that have been determined previously to be caused by alcohol have been confirmed. There is no discussion about whether alcohol causes these cancers. The fact that alcohol is a carcinogen has been clearly confirmed.”

There are other ways to decrease your risk of heart disease that doesn’t increase your risk of cancer.

Furthermore, alcohol affects the brain by reducing nerve cell firing; it blocks oxygen getting into the cell’s energy centers; and it reduces the effectiveness of many different types of neurotransmitters, especially those involved in learning and remembering. And a 2008 study appearing in the Archives of Neurology found that people who drink just one to seven drinks per week have smaller brains than nondrinkers, and those who have two or more drinks a day have even more brain shrinkage. When it comes to the brain, size matters!

At Amen Clinics, we want to help you learn more about your brain and how you can make it better, not only for yourself but for the generations that follow. Call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.

Amen Clinics

Amen Clinics

The Amen Clinics Method—developed through 26 years of clinical practice—uses a detailed clinical history, SPECT imaging to understand brain function, neuropsychological testing and laboratory studies to target treatment specifically to your brain using the least toxic, most effective means. If you are interested in learning more or to schedule an appointment, contact the Amen Clinics Care Center today at 888-288-9834 or contact us here.
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  • ushpa

    You mention that alcohol, “predisposes you to sugar abuse” but does that relationship work both ways? In other words, does abusing yourself with sugar in childhood lead to a predisposition for alcohol abuse later in life? Anecdotally, in my own experience, I believe this to be true, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

    • Annica Odina

      I agree – would love to hear more on this subject. Although I no longer have trouble staying away from sweets and cakes, I had a right sweet tooth as a child, and now I’m very keen on, predominantly, wine. I wonder if there is any research on the subject?

  • nmfd72

    Tell that to my 95 year old Mother who for the past 70 years has 2 glasses of wine each night with dinner. She is sharp as a tact and still drives!!!

    • Anise Leinen

      (sigh) An anecdote is not data. One story about something that happened to one person is not data. A study that followed 115,000 subjects is data. This should not have to be explained.

      • nmfd72

        (sigh) (sigh) Oh Anise, if only you had a brain and could think for yourself. Last time I looked there were over 7 billion people on earth, 115,000 people (and I doubt the sample was that big) is not statistically significant by any means and this should NOT have to be explained to YOU. So Anise, pull your head out of your ass and get a real job. Have a Great Day!!

    • Craig

      tell her to quit asap.

    • Ukisociety Jones

      If she didn’t drink, she’d live to 125. smh

    • Roberto

      Has anyone ever looked at her brain to see for sure how healthy it is? The brain is huge and it can effect different areas of the brain disguising itself. Certain areas of the brain can still work well while others don’t work so well. That same analogy was used when doctors where saying hitting your head is bad like look at Steve young he has hit his head and he is very intelligent and a lawyer. We know now this was wrong and a distorted logic. It’s tricky because no one ever looks at the brain. So you would never know. Now that we have the tools to do so it seems kind of foolish not to look at and access the health of the organ that makes us human.

  • emptynester99

    I’d love you to share more information regarding this Dr. Amen.

  • Birit Simonsen Trematore

    Does this damage reverse if the person stops drinking alcohol, or is it permanent? To what extent?

  • punditwannabe

    If this is true, Europeans, who drink a lot of wine, would be retarded…..hmmmm.

  • Lisa Layden

    Great article.

    Just went to a psychologists office last week and the doctor said “I do not think a little marijuana is harmful as long as the person did not have an addictive nature.” (I have no idea what this doctor meant by addictive nature considering we live in a sugar based culture.)

    I would love Dr. Amen to give us the evidence about “a little” marijuana on the brain.

  • Oh wow!

  • RicardoRichard

    Everybody knows that it is not healthy to drink alcohol. I don’t know where you took it from that “contrary to popular belief … ” But if one drinks a glass of red wine with a meal (resveratrol) they are not going to die, for sure.

    On the other hand what would a human life look like if we we only did what is healthy? How many people wear masks in New York or any other major city just to protect themselves from the polluted air they breath. And we should not use cars – walking is healthier, The same refers to lifts or elevators as you call them in the US. It is healthier to walk upstairs even if it is the 70th floor.

    Although it is not a healthy choice to have a hamburger but you will not die if you do it once a year.. And we could go on and on and on with a whole list of activities because they are not considered healthy.

    But what is healthy in the first place? Hydrogenated fats were considered healthy 40 years ago. Who knows if today we are not making mistakes by consuming something that is understood to be healthy and in 40 years’ time science will tell us that we were wrong.

    Now sitting is a very unhealthy epidemic. Did we know it 10 years ago?

    I remember Dr Mercola told us sometime ago year that our WC was not a
    good invention because it prevents us from satisfying our necessities in
    the correct position. And obviously it is true, it was not a joke of his. But
    does it mean we should leave only a hole in our bathroom in order to
    satisfy our necessities in a squatting position because it is healthy to
    do it that way.

    Last but not least walking on our two feet is not healthy because our back has not evolved so far to bear all this burden – it will be healthier for us to go on all fours. So let’s do it say starting tomorrow for the rest of our lives.

    Returning to alcohol, it helps us to socialize to pull off our masks and to open ourselves a bit. It is not healthy for sure but if one does not abuse, it will not kill us nor it will damage our body beyond repair if we drink say 50g of vodka / whiskey once a week together with a meal..

  • Anise Leinen

    There was a piece about the Lancet article published recently on a British newspaper site (wish I could remember which one– it was pretty mainstream.) The responses were just unreal. Literally hundreds of angry people all defending their drinking, clinging to excuses to continue to keep drinking, justifying their drinking, rationalizing their drinking, etc etc etc. Ugh.

    • Ethel

      You ignore all the people who are not addicted. you judge people as angry who perhaps just didn’t find it sensible to hear this based on all the people they know. To me it is like hearing about how tea has so much caffeine. While the initial caffeine is measurable the effect of the tea is nothing like coffee. A German article explained it this way; the longer the brewing the more tannins are released and bind up the caffeine. This makes sense in terms of most people’s experience. Dr Amen’s SPECT scans should be taken into acct. but they do not prove a direct causation. Those people came to him for a reason. They are not a representative sample.

  • Jacque

    Thanks for the information and photo of brain scans. I am glad that you are providing the facts that alcohol causes more harm than benefit. I’ve known several people who have died early as a result of drinking. It’s good to know the real effect it has on the brain and body so that we can show this information to teens who seem to be attracted to it.

  • nmfd72

    (sigh) (sigh) Oh Anise, if only you had a brain and could think for yourself. Last time I looked there were over 7 billion people on earth, 115,000 subjects is not statistically significant by any means and this should NOT have to be explained to YOU. I was not providing “data” just an example, one of many I am sure that can easily dispute such insignificant “data”. If you took a basis statistics course during your apparent very young life you would understand that “data” is easily manipulated. If you haven’t taken such a course I strongly suggest you do before attempting to come off as a KNOW IT ALL. Have a Great Day!

  • 1/2Dan

    Thank you for once again emphasizing the effects of alcohol on the brain! The first time I heard Dr. Amen say anything about alcohol, he was doing a Q&A after a PBS taping. When asked about the benefits of alcohol, Dr. Amen slowly replied, “There is nothing wrong with a small glass of wine once a month” and when the word “month” came out of his mouth there was an
    audible gasp from the audience!

  • Redshirt58

    Confused about the brain graphic at the beginning of this article! What does this mean:
    “2 – 2 normal size glasses of wine per day”?

    Is this perhaps a typo? Maybe “1 – 2” . . . or something else?

    • Debbie Unterman

      I bet it’s 2-3 because I believe the amount it’s ok to drink a night (they say) is 2 glasses for women and 3 for men.

    • Kat Milacek

      Yes, I wondered about that too.


    my father also – and there are all those other studies that found that drinking red wine is good fr you! it is not an anecdote. Anise. I have also seen statistical studies that were manipulated or just plain poorly executed. never rely on just statistics – as Churchill admonished “I never trust a statistic I did not make myself”

  • Kimberly Bergey

    Thank you Dr Amen for reminding us about alcohol consumption at this timely New Year’s Eve, for those of us who were thinking of having more than one…ha! I am a veteran CFT and I am riveted by your work! I have many of your books and I’m currently reading the Brain Warriors Way! I was wondering if you do seminars or speak at conventions that I could attend? I would love to hear you speak at some venue. Thanks for all you do!
    Health warrior to many,

  • JAYE R

    Let’s get real here: Alcohol is a toxin… a poison. Straight up poison to the body! One can make any reason or rationale or justification to make it okay but we all make our choices as we see fit for us. If you want to live long and be healthy.. don’t drink or limit it to a couple of drinks on special occasions.

  • Carrie Gordon

    Dr. Amen has had years of experience in the field of brain health….. Take his advice or leave it…..

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