Zero Health Benefits from Moderate Drinking, Analysis Says

Moderate Drinking

For years, studies have suggested that drinking alcohol in moderation is associated with a host of health benefits. But newer research dispels those claims, finding zero health benefits from moderate consumption of alcohol. Moderate drinking is defined as 1-2 drinks per day. In fact, alcohol is the opposite of a health tonic and, instead, causes problems in the brain and body.

Researchers behind the most recent findings about alcohol and health, published in JAMA, analyzed 107 studies including nearly 5 million participants. They found that many of those studies were flawed, and many of them were funded by the alcohol industry.

For years, studies have suggested that drinking alcohol in moderation is associated with a host of health benefits. But newer research dispels those claims, finding zero health benefits from moderate consumption of alcohol. Click To Tweet


Far from serving as a health tonic, it turns out that even lower alcohol consumption rates cause harm. In fact, the consumption of any alcohol—even the smallest amount—disrupts the development of white matter and function in the brain. Think of the white matter as superhighways in the brain that increase processing speed.

Drinking harms the brain in many ways, including the following alcohol health risks:

1. Increasing the risk of dementia

Moderate to heavy drinkers have a 57% higher risk of dementia compared to nondrinkers or light drinkers, according to a 2015 study.

2. Shrinking brain volume

Nondrinkers have larger brains than people who consume 1-7 drinks a week, according to a 2008 Johns Hopkins study that appeared in the Archives of Neurology.

3. Reducing blood flow to the brain

On brain SPECT scans, which measure blood flow and activity in the brain, heavy drinkers show lowered blood flow to the brain. This can lead to brain fog, poor decision-making, and impulsivity among other problems. Of critical importance is the fact that reduced blood flow to the brain is the #1 brain-imaging predictor of future memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Atrophy of the hippocampus

A 30-year study of 550 men and women, published in 2017 in BMJ, found that drinking 1-2 glasses of wine a day causes the hippocampus to atrophy. The hippocampus is a critical part of the brain focused on learning and memory.

5. Reducing the number of new brain cells

In a study presented at Neuroscience in 2009, monkeys that consumed alcohol showed a 58% decline in the creation of new brain cells and a 63% reduction in the survival rate of new brain cells.

In short, drinking can literally make you lose your mind.  Beyond the harm to the brain, alcohol degrades the body at nearly every other level, as well.


Your ability to stay balanced while walking or exercising, your ability to focus your vision, your reaction time, and your good judgment and behavior are all negatively impacted by alcohol use. All of these impairments increase your risk of injury and, thereby, death.

Overall, alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Nearly 30% of all deaths attributable to alcohol were due to injuries in 2016, according to global statistics. These causes include car accidents, drownings, falls, and injuries from violence, according to the NIAA.

Alcohol use also impairs liver function. Any excessive alcohol use, even over a couple of days, can contribute to fatty liver disease. It can also increase digestive problems by inflaming the stomach and causing heartburn, acid reflux, and esophageal disorders. Alcohol-driven intestinal disorders can lead to cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, neurological health issues, and irritable bowel syndrome, according to research.


The good news is that whether you’re a light, moderate, or heavy drinker, it’s possible to improve brain and body health. Here are 6 strategies that help reduce alcohol health risks.

1. Stop drinking alcohol.

Based on the new science, eliminating alcohol is best for your brain function, mental well-being, and overall physical health.

2. Keep your goals in mind.

To help curb the temptation to drink socially, think about your goals in life. Do you want to be happy, healthy, successful, and in a fulfilling relationship? When you feel the urge to grab a beer or a glass of wine, ask yourself, “Does this fit?”

Will this behavior help you get what you want from life? Or will drinking steal your happiness, diminish your health, and cause trouble in other areas of your life?

3. Learn to say no to drinking.

Drinking is part of the social fabric of life in the United States. People drink to celebrate holidays, weddings, birthdays, graduations, Fridays, and many other occasions.

On a regular basis, you are likely to come across people who encourage you to join them for a drink. Living an alcohol-free life means finding ways to say no to alcohol in social situations.

4. Consider hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

If drinking has impacted the health of your brain and body, HBOT may be beneficial. HBOT is a non-invasive treatment that uses pure oxygen to accelerate the healing process.

For example, research shows that HBOT boosts blood flow to the brain. And considering that alcohol is a toxic substance, another benefit of HBOT lies in its detoxification effects.

5. Keep your blood sugar balanced.

Low blood sugar levels are associated with lower overall brain activity, including lower activity in the PFC. Low brain activity here is associated with increased cravings, poorer decisions, and a greater likelihood of giving in to temptations.

Low blood sugar levels can also make you feel hungry, irritable, or anxious. All of these make you more likely to reach for an alcoholic drink.

6. Make brain-heathy habits a priority.

To counter the negative effects of drinking, eat nutritious foods, move your body daily, and get adequate sleep.

Alcohol use disorder, addictions, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. This is earth shaking news for me! I’m not a drinker but I care a lot about my health and for a while I was actually attempting to get in the habit of having a bit of wine or beer for the health benefits. Now it’s Bye bye booze! Thanks for passing on this very important bit of health news. I’ll be sharing it with the people I know and care about.

    Comment by Ginny — July 10, 2023 @ 3:13 AM

  2. I was a drug and alcohol counselor for 40 years and saw all types of disorders due to heavy drinking. I was a moderate drinker {socially only and about once a month at that!} but stopped all together about ten years ago and am so glad I did. I do not think 1 to 2 drinks per day should be considered 'moderate drinking'!! Our society needs to rethink our relationship to alcohol and realize it is a drug that affects every organ in the body.

    Comment by Anne McNamara — July 10, 2023 @ 5:39 AM

  3. I have been carefully following the research and advice which allowed me to have 1 ounce of alcohol a day.
    Now, with your latest research results I am replacing the alcohol with a vegetable juice.
    Thank you

    Comment by Edith — July 11, 2023 @ 8:08 AM

  4. Not to mention how alcohol is toxic to the heart, and can cause all kinds of problems, even in moderation.

    Comment by Sue — September 1, 2023 @ 10:32 AM

  5. excellent ideas!

    Comment by Doug Morris — September 1, 2023 @ 5:32 PM

  6. I am happy to see , in writing, that there is no amount of alcohol that is beneficial to the body. I have always thought that sounded preposterous! I wish that more people knew this fact. Maybe include that in a commercial on TV ( following an ad for beer or wine ),

    Comment by Angie Kasprzak — September 13, 2023 @ 2:14 PM

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