Alcohol is not a human “brain cleaner”

Recent headlines saying alcohol drinking “cleans brains” should not persuade humans to drink more.

“It is by no means a green light for people to drink more alcohol,” says Dr Claire Walton, research manager at the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society, about a study on mice which has triggered coverage hinting otherwise.

Mammal brains

It is a “big leap” to take a research finding for mice and apply it to people, she said. “There are just too many differences between mice and people to do this.” Drinking more than 14 UK units (140ml) of alcohol a week, meanwhile, definitely increases human alcohol-related dementia risk.

The study investigated the mouse’s brain waste-disposal system which might play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. “This is a relatively new area of research, where there is a lot still to be learned.”

Alcohol had a long history of use as a medicine, but it has since been found to be counterproductive in all cases and fraught with other risks. It is no longer put to any medical use other than as a sterilising fluid because of its ability to kill cells.

Dubious ideas that alcohol drinking can have health benefits can help support our decisions to drink, in what is known by health professionals as alcohol’s false “health halo”. ■