What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health | Huberman Lab Podcast #86


In this episode, I discuss the physiological effects that drinking alcohol has on the brain and body at different levels of consumption and over time. I also describe genetic differences that predispose certain individuals to alcoholism, binge and habit-drinking. I explain alcohol metabolism in simple terms and how it effectively acts as a poison, leading to cellular stress and damage. I then explain that it impacts neuronal function and changes our thinking and behavior – hallmarks of inebriation. I also discuss how alcohol consumption of different amounts impacts inflammation, stress, neurodegeneration, and cancer risk and negatively impacts the gut microbiome, brain thickness, hormone balance, mood and feelings of motivation. Additionally, I discuss the biology of hangovers and describe science-based strategies to mitigate the severity of a hangover. Since alcohol is one of the most widely consumed recreational substances, this episode ought to be of relevance to everyone. Indeed, even low-to-moderate alcohol consumption negatively impacts the brain and body in direct ways. The goal of this episode is to help people make informed decisions about their alcohol consumption that are in keeping with their mental and physical health goals.

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Associations between alcohol consumption and gray and white matter volumes in the UK Biobank:
Gut Microbiota at the Intersection of Alcohol, Brain, and the Liver:
Tolerance to alcohol: A critical yet understudied factor in alcohol addiction:
Associations Between Drinking and Cortical Thickness in Younger Adult Drinkers: Findings From the Human Connectome Project:
Moderate Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Breast Cancer:
Can alcohol promote aromatization of androgens to estrogens? A review:

Other Resources
Examine – Alcohol & Hangover:

00:00:00 Effects of Alcohol Consumption
00:02:25 Momentous Supplements
00:03:19 Low to Moderate Alcohol Consumption & Neurodegeneration
00:06:52 Levels, Eight Sleep, ROKA
00:10:46 Historical Context & Uses of Alcohol
00:13:28 Alcohol Metabolism, “Empty Calories”
00:18:23 Inebriation: Top-Down Inhibition, Impulsivity & Memory Formation
00:24:23 Long-Lasting Effects & Impulsivity, Neuroplasticity & Reversibility
00:27:55 Food & Alcohol Absorption
00:30:07 Alcohol & Serotonin, SSRIs & Depression, Risk for Alcoholism, Blackouts
00:37:39 Predisposition for Alcoholism; Chronic Consumption, Cortisol & Stress
00:44:53 AG1 (Athletic Greens)
00:46:07 Genetic Predisposition for Alcoholism, Consuming Alcohol Too Young
00:52:27 Gut-Liver-Brain Axis: Alcohol, Gut Microbiome, Inflammation & Leaky Gut
00:59:46 Tool: Improving/Replenishing Gut Microbiome
01:02:44 Reducing Alcohol Consumption & Stress
01:04:25 Hangover: Alcohol & Sleep, Anxiety, Headache
01:12:11 Hangover Recovery, Adrenaline & Deliberate Cold Exposure
01:17:16 Hangover Recovery, Dehydration & Electrolytes
01:20:45 Types of Alcohol & Hangover Severity, Congeners
01:25:25 Alcohol Tolerance, Dopamine & Serotonin, Pleasure-Pain Balance
01:33:36 Are There Any Positive Effects of Alcohol?, Resveratrol
01:35:42 Alcohol & Brain Thickness
01:37:11 Alcohol & Cancer Risk: DNA Methylation, Breast Cancer Risk
01:44:31 Mitigating Cancer Risk, Folate, B Vitamins
01:46:54 Alcohol & Pregnancy, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
01:50:58 Hormones: Testosterone & Estrogen Balance
01:55:09 Negative Effects of Alcohol Consumption
01:58:35 Zero-Cost Support, YouTube Feedback, Spotify & Apple Reviews, Sponsors, Momentous Supplements, Instagram, Twitter, Neural Network Newsletter, Huberman Lab Clips

The Huberman Lab Podcast is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this podcast or materials linked from this podcast is at the user’s own risk. The content of this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard or delay in obtaining medical advice for any medical condition they may have and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.

Date: August 22, 2022

44 thoughts on “What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health | Huberman Lab Podcast #86

  1. I am a 64 year old man who has been drinking alcohol since I was 15. I decided to stop 44 days ago,as my heart has been diagnosed as being enlarged causing fluid overload. There is to benefit in drinking this poison. If you care for yourself or for your family remember this, drinking alcohol is like stealing tomorrow’s happiness.


  3. I am shocked about the relationship of alcohol and cancer! I’m freaking out about all these years of drinking I’ve done! And even a drink and breastfeeding. 😢 thank you for this podcast. I cannot believe how ignorant I have been when it comes to alcohol and it’s effects. I drank here and there with every pregnancy. My poor babies!! By the Grace of God, they were all born healthy and strong!

  4. I'm passionate about health and doing good for my body. I've also been very passionate about wine… Not a huge drinker but sometimes would end up drinking a full bottle of wine in a night – though always quality over quantity for me. After listening to this podcast my perception of alcohol changed drastically – I kind of knew alcohol is bad for me but avoided researching the topic in more detail – focusing on the articles calling wine being the healthy kind of alcohol etc. Never had any alcohol problem really – I just loved the flavour of wine and actually still dreaming that a GOOD alcohol free wine will be invented one day. Well I have stopped drinking alcohol after this episode – nearly completely for a few months now. I don't even have any cravings. The wine sort of became to me what an indulgent cake is – something that is really tasty but just so bad to me that I know I can't have it (I'm gluten intolerant and got cow's milk allergy). And on a very special odd day, I'll still let myself to have just a little, knowing all the consequences. From a huge wine enthusiast to this – even I'm shocked how easy it was for me to just stop but the passion for healthy living and awareness of everything mentioned in this episode is behind it I guess.

  5. My 28 Y/O brother died from what can essentially be described as "complications from AUD" 28 Y/O with stage 4 liver cirrhosis. January 6th 2023.
    I thank the lord for people like you Andrew, maybe this podcast will prevent others from having the same early demise.
    He started drinking very early in life, probably 13-14, and Im not sure there was a day that went by where he wasnt drinking.
    We come from a long line of alcoholics. Dad, Grandpa, Grandma (on both sides) to name a few. He had the entire deck stacked against him. he put on such a strong face, no one even knew how tormented he was on the inside. I miss my brother more than anything.
    I had a close call with alcohol shortly after he passed away, but by the grace of god, my body started to really yell and scream at me to STOP! maybe it was my sub-conscious, maybe it was the poison making me feel bad, all I know is I have been sober for two months.
    I have never been considered an alcoholic, or even a light drinker for that matter, I thank god that for whatever reason, I just dont like alcohol, or the way it makes me feel just moments after the "feel good" wears off.
    I've never blacked out, but I witnessed first hand my brother in a state of blackout drunkenness MULTIPLE times.
    He fought his best friend in highschool, blackout drunk, stepped in a hole and broke his tibia and fibula clean in half, then got back up and tried to continue fighting, he got two titanium rods installed after that.
    Then he flipped his truck into a swamp, blackout drunk, somehow didnt die, or kill anyone. he spent the night in jail for that one.
    Next, my nearly 300lb brother was somehow convinced (or convinced his friends) to get him to do a keg stand, well they dropped him, he snapped the Tibia and Fibula in his OTHER leg, woke up with 2 more shiney titanium rods, this time in his other leg.
    All of that before he even turned 21 BTW… Im sure there are more stories that he never told a soul. My brother was one of the BEST DAMN DRINKERS OUT THERE. too bad, that shit kills you.
    RIP Hunter, I Love you Bro…

  6. Hi Dr. Huberman. Really enjoyed this podcast. I believe you mentioned if we know something then to leave a comment below. With regards to resveratrol and advantages to drinking red wine, I'd say resveratrol is a product of the grape, not the fermentation process. Therefore any advantage that resveratrol may have will also be found in 100% grape juice made from red grapes, but without the ethanol related risks. So having 1-4 drinks of red grape juice may provide the benefits but without the risks. Since 1988, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which belongs to the WHO, has officially classed alcoholic beverages as carcinogenic. If you're interested, I believe that it's monograph volume 44 that published the findings of the committee and can be downloaded from the IARC website.

    Thanks again!
    Konrád Szallós-Farkas, MD, Clinical RD

  7. I at the age of 40 have been diagnosed with Liver Cirrhosis and heart failure, I wasnt an alcohilic but did drink alot when i did drink which was once a week but with cocaine included. you dont need to be a full on daily drinker to get Liver issues~! 3 months sober since i got the news….

  8. After hearing about the singer of Smashmouth died of liver failure due to drinking, I have been researching the effects of alcohol on your health and that led me here. I watched all 2 hours on the edge of my seat. I am quitting alcohol TODAY!!! I am scared straight!!!

  9. Interesting podcast, i am not an alcoholic but i can see from this podcast i have the potential to be, and also just understanding how toxic it is to the body, i think i am going to say goodbye to it.

  10. I read recently that low alcohol consumption can improve your lipid panel, which blew my mind. I'd love Huberman or Attia to comment on those studies, and whether any positive effect on lipids is offset by the negatives

  11. I have never, ever enjoyed the taste of alcohol. Not even wine. I wonder if that's nature's way of preventing me from ingesting this poison in the first place?

  12. I stopped drinking after listening to this podcast. I was drinking few to ten beers in a working days and wodka in the weekend after I stopped Im sleeping better, Im focused and more motivated, less anger, less anxiety and that just 3 weeks in just the beginning and Im not thinking to go back to that mysery. And i wanted to thank you for opening my eyes. Much love <3

  13. Funny, how Muslims have been knowing this for over 1000 years!
    Now suddenly not drinking is the new "hype"! This video is a waste of 2 hours of explaining, how this toxic substance can cause cancer and brings to bodily benefits…
    Don't waste your time guys ===> SUMMARY; DONT DRINK ALCOHOL!

  14. This video should be titled "what chronic alcohol usage does to the body." Seems a little biased to assume theres no benefits to alcohol consumption other than the high it provides. He mentions a study where low consumption increases testosterone, but then "debunks" it by comparing it to chronic consumption. Like of course people with inflammation experience negative effects, but what about the healthy people with good microbiomes? I'm a carnivore that drinks very occasionally, like probably once every month or so. Everytime I drink, I feel as if i have more focus and attention. Even if i have a hangover, i drink electrolytes and my cognition almost seems enhanced. What if diet plays a role on how its metabolized? What if alcohol, used right, is actually beneficial unless theres inflammation, which can come from abuse or a poor diet. Idk but my personal experiences almost always reflect highten focus the day after

  15. Great video. I did do a full genome sequencing and I don't have the alcoholic gene although I do drink socially. It's good to know that with this genetic profile it should be easy to stop at any time and I do take long breaks.

  16. I think it’s very important to completely eliminate alcohol. This morning there was a bottle of wine in my refrigerator, well, i managed to completely eliminate it at lunch, it was hard but i did it.

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