WASHINGTON — A video posted to TikTok by user @drdawnbantel, viewed more than 4.8 million times, claims having an average of one alcoholic drink per day will cause your brain to permanently shrink.
But don't cancel your bottomless brunch plans just yet: one of the authors of the study the video is based on says that's a misleading conclusion.
Can an average of one alcoholic drink a day shrink your brain?
- “Associations between alcohol consumption and gray and white matter volumes in the UK Biobank,” the study the video is based on
- Dr. Henry Kranzler, Professor and Director, Center for Studies of Addiction at University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and one of the study’s authors
No, the study cited in the TikTok video did not conclude that drinking, on average, one alcoholic beverage a day will permanently shrink your brain.
WHAT WE FOUND
Booze shrinking your brain? Not exactly, said Dr. Kranzler.
“That’s a little sensationalist,” he said.
Dr. Kranzler said that’s not what the study found; in fact, it’s not even what they were studying.
“We didn't look at people before they drank, over a period of time, and then after, which is which would be required to support that claim,” he explained.
But here’s what they did find when they studied 37,000 brain scans: on average those who drank more showed a decrease in what’s called gray matter and white matter, which essentially means a lower volume of brain cells. And those cells were less organized.
But Kranzler says that doesn’t definitively point to permanent brain shrinkage.
“There is evidence from people who drink very heavily who have more obvious functional and larger decreases, that there, with abstinence, there is recovery,” he said. “Not full recovery, perhaps, but can be substantial recovery.”
However, drinking can be connected with temporary dehydration of the brain, which Dr. Kranzler says is often a side effect of too much alcohol. That’s because the brain is made up of a lot of water, so he says shrinkage might occur as a result of dehydration--and could contribute to that foggy, achey feeling that could come after too many mimosas. It’s likely reversible, he says; just give yourself some time and maybe drink some water.