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Alcohol Effects on Brain Health

Alcohol Effects on Brain Health in Middle-Aged Adults

You are most likely already aware that drinking alcohol isn’t healthy for your body as a whole (ask anybody who has experienced a hangover), but you may not be aware of the potentially serious effects that alcohol has on the brain. Tossing back a few drinks may make you feel relaxed at first, but what alcohol consumption is actually doing to your brain can be long lasting. Here, we will dive into the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol, focusing on how alcohol affects the brain in middle-aged adults in particular.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Brain?

Those who regularly drink large quantities of alcohol can eventually expect to experience the following effects:

Memory Loss

Especially when you drink a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time (a behavior also known as “binge drinking”), alcohol consumption can lead to memory loss. These memory gaps are sometimes referred to as “blackouts” and they most often occur when alcohol impedes a brain function called memory consolidation: when memories are moved from short- to long-term storage in the hippocampus.

Hindered Mental Functioning

Not only can alcohol affect memory, but it can also impact mental functioning, since it may actually damage your brain cells. A very possible long-term effect of alcohol on brain health is a reduction in the overall number and quality of neurons, as demonstrated by this study of middle-aged and older adults in the UK.

Increased Risk of Dementia

Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol has been shown to increase your risk of developing dementia, and may even make you more likely to develop dementia at an earlier age.

Learning Issues

Alcohol-related brain damage (also known “alcohol-related brain injury”) commonly makes it difficult to remember details or learn new information. 

What Is Alcohol-Related Brain Damage in Older Adults?

Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) tends to occur in heavy drinkers between the ages of 40 and 50 years old and is exactly what it sounds like: brain damage from alcohol. High alcohol consumption damages the brain for a few varied reasons, including:

  • When ethanol (the intoxicating chemical that’s present in alcoholic drinks) comes into contact with brain cells, these cells can die, and the brain can actually get smaller.
  • Alcohol can contribute to elevated blood pressure (also known as hypertension), which is linked to strokes, a type of brain damage.
  • Hepatic encephalopathy can occur when the liver is too damaged to protect the rest of the body, including the brain, from toxin exposure.
  • Many people become aggressive when drinking heavily, causing them to get into fights that can lead to brain injuries.
  • Brain damage from alcoholism can also occur as a result of alcohol-related malnutrition, especially when the brain is deprived of thiamine (also known as vitamin B1). Thiamine deficiency may result in Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome also known as “wet brain”), which may cause symptoms that are similar to dementia.

Although ARBD can be serious and severe, the good news is that if those suffering from ARBD commonly stop drinking - it is possible to recover from the condition and reverse many of these brain effects, partially or completely.

What Age Is Most Affected by Alcoholism?

Although alcoholism is bad for your body at any age, it’s worth noting that the bodies of older people are less able to process alcohol for a number of reasons. First, since older people typically have less muscle mass and store less water in their bodies, any alcohol that they consume is more concentrated in the bloodstream. Second, older people’s bodies are typically more vulnerable to physical illnesses and brain disorders such as dementia, which alcohol may exacerbate. Some common health issues for older adults that alcohol exacerbates include heart disease, high blood pressure, digestive issues, many types of cancer (including liver, esophageal, and colon cancer), and liver cirrhosis

What Parts of the Brain Are Most Damaged by Alcohol?

The following areas of the brain are most damaged by excessive alcohol consumption:

  • The cerebral cortex, which is essential for memory, thinking, learning, reasoning, emotions, consciousness, and problem-solving
  • The limbic system, which governs emotions
  • The thalamus, which is responsible for communication within the brain
  • The basal forebrain, which is involved in memory and learning
  • The cerebellum, which governs posture, motor coordination, and learning simple tasks

The Best Supplement to Take Before Drinking Alcohol

Capsulyte’s PREGAME supplement was formulated by internal medicine physician Dr. Dan Nguyen, MD, MBA to be taken in preparation for a session of drinking. Its evidence-based combination of ingredients addresses the root causes of why you feel awful the morning after drinking, supporting your body and brain in recovering more quickly from alcohol consumption. Here are the key ingredients found in PREGAME:

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)

NAC is a form of the amino acid cysteine that is frequently taken in supplement form. By taking NAC, you can supply your body with a building block of glutathione, which can then be produced in potentially greater quantities. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant, so it effectively neutralizes free radicals in the body that contribute to oxidative stress and create cell damage in the long run. Glutathione may also be helpful for mitigating the aftereffects of drinking alcohol because it can neutralize toxic byproducts of the body’s alcohol metabolism, such as acetaldehyde. Early studies of NAC’s efficacy for improving hangover symptoms are promising, but more research on the compound is still needed.

Dihydromyricetin (DHM)

DHM is another antioxidant as well as a strong anti-inflammatory. If the effect of alcohol on brain function is a particular concern for you, you’ll be glad to learn that DHM can reduce stress levels and improve cognitive function


Also an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory compound, Clovinol® is a natural compound derived from clove buds. One study found that supplementing with Clovinol® lowered levels of acetaldehyde in participants’ blood and made their hangovers 55 percent less severe.


Derived from milk thistle, Siliphos® has numerous benefits for liver health, which alcohol may damage. Compounds made from milk thistle may increase the life expectancy of people with alcoholic liver disease-related cirrhosis, protect against liver disorders, and protect the liver from potent toxins such as amatoxin.

If you are ready to learn more about how Capsulyte supplements can mitigate alcohol's effect on the brain and body, check out the Capsulyte blog for more details.