5 Myths about Alcohol Debunked
As the most widely used drug on the planet, just about everyone you know has a crazy alcohol story. It’s no surprise then that lots of myths have gone up around it. Sometimes, the myth contains a grain of truth. Most of the time, though, it started as a bit of propaganda against the dangers of booze, such as with our first myth.
1. Alcohol Kills Brain Cells
This one is easy to believe if you’ve ever seen the way some of your friends behave after a few too many. No sober sales associate thinks he can take on the bouncer.
In reality, imbibing alcohol only makes you act more stupid; it does not permanently destroy brain cells. However, it does damage neurons, which carry the messages your nerves send to your brain. This damage accounts for a lot of drunken behaviors, such as slurred speech, texting your ex after last call, and an inability to walk in a straight line. Luckily, the effects are only temporary (depending on what you put in that text to your ex).
Note, though, that persistently overindulging in alcohol may lead to serious health issues, including memory lapses. No one is sure if this is due solely to the effects of alcohol, or to the other poor health habits often found in habitual drinkers, such as poor diet and exercise.
2. Mix Your Liquor, Get Drunker Quicker
This may be the most often-quoted myth about alcohol, and it’s one of the first things most people hear about drinking. Never mix beer and wine. Never mix beer and whisky. Basically, your first drink, last drink, and all drinks in between should live in the same family.
This is one of those myths with a grain of truth to it, but attributed to the wrong thing. If you switch from beer to hard liquor, and continue drinking at the same rate of speed, you will get drunk more quickly. However, this has nothing to do with the mere act of changing it up, and everything to do with how much alcohol you drink.
In other words, the amount of alcohol consumed determines the level of inebriation. It doesn’t matter in which order you line up the drinks, it only matters how quickly you get X amount of alcohol into your system.
Consider how quickly you drink a beer, with an average ABV of around 4 percent. Now, consider how quickly you drink an ounce of whisky, with about 10 times the ABV of beer. Even if you can’t do the math, your body knows you just jump-started its alcohol consumption. It doesn’t care that it’s still only one drink every 30 minutes or so. Your body knows that, scientifically speaking, you’ve had a lot more alcohol.
3. Lite Beer is Healthier
This one depends on your ideas about what’s healthy. If your goal is controlling caloric intake, the light version of your favorite beer is typically lower in calories. It also may have a lower alcohol content than its full-bodied counterparts.
Note, though, that even among light beers, calorie content and ABV vary. What’s more, people tend to drink more light beer than “regular” beer, either because they think they can afford to because it’s the “healthier” choice, or because regular beer, and especially dark beer, are more filling. A pint of Guinness makes most people as though they just ate a small meal.
If you consider all of the nutrition factors in beer, light beer misses the mark compared to its darker brethren (more on that in a minute). So, the takeaway here is that light beer does have fewer calories and a lower ABV, but to enjoy the benefits you have to drink in moderation (which you should do anyway).
4. Alcohol Type Affects Your Behavior
This one goes beyond the liquor, wine, beer categories and ascribes behavior to every type of alcohol. Common stereotypes include whisky drinkers get rowdy and tequila drinkers lose all inhibitions.
The truth on this one ties heavily to number two; alcohol is alcohol, and your body doesn’t know the difference. What matters is how much you consume and how quickly you consume it. However, here we get an interesting twist, in that your brain plays a role in how alcohol affects you.
The placebo effect is nothing new, but you may not realize that it contributes to more than just whether that medicine you take actually works. To put it plainly, if you expect your drink to affect you a certain way, it will. This even helps influence how drunk you feel, not just how you act.
Of course, you can’t think your way to sobriety. Your BAC will still be high, even if you convince yourself that you’re sober. You might be able to fool your brain, but not your blood. You will fail that DUI test, so don’t get behind the wheel.
5. The Darker the Drink, the Healthier it Is
Since dark beers and red wines have higher levels of healthy stuff like antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenol, this leads many people to believe that they’re healthier. Another health claim, polar opposite from the light beer myth, is that the greater caloric content signifies that the brew is healthier.
In reality, though dark beer and red wine do have healthful properties, they also contain toxins called cogeners, which help contribute to nasty hangovers. The toxin develops during fermentation, and is also found in dark liquors, such as whisky, tequila, and rum.
The key with all alcohol consumption is moderation. Beer and wine boast moderate health properties, but only when you limit intake to one-to-two drinks per day. Binge drinking is always dangerous and, over time, may cause serious health problems. So, enjoy your favorite drinks, but do so responsibly.