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Health: Alcohol and the Brain

Recent research has shown that we need to Cancel Happy Hour: Alcohol Shrinks Brain (Source: Ding, J, Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, January 2004.).

"But this is the first to show that even moderate drinking -- causes the same sort of brain atrophy and it occurs as early as in middle age"...

The thought of my brain wasting away every time I have a Guiness is not a happy one. However, I am somewhat comforted by the conclusion that, "It's not known how much this reduction in brain volume affects mental functions." A better news article that captures more of the research methodology can be found at News24. To be honest, I think I have some mental functions that would benefit from some atrophy. Perhaps our culture does too.

It is obvious to say that changes in the physical structure of the brain must somehow impact learning. We know that the size of the brain is no indication of intelligence (i.e. - bigger is not necessarily better). We also know that we constantly bombard our brains with chemicals whether they be in the foods we eat or the environments we create for ourselves. We also damage our brains through excessive amounts of collectively generated stress and anxiety. While there is a great deal of research left to do, it does seem that neurologists may in fact start forging some direct cause and effect links between the biology of our brains and why we are the way we are. This is life-changing research.

As a bit of a sidenote, many of these news-oriented websites are like an itch that can't be scratched. WebMD for example greets you with a pop-up add and also sticks full-color adds in your face directly in the article. This is an incredibily trite attempt at marketing and the folks at WebMD should take their work more seriously. Many of these ads originate in fear, that is, they try to invoke a fear response in people so that they will click on the image/link to view the "solution/product."

In the sidebar on WebMD, for example, a Pfizer add states, "People over 40 have a 1 in 5 chance of developing heart failure." Great - not only is my brain shrinking due to the Guiness, now I have a 20% of heart failure. I won't go all the way and call this victimization, but my crapometer did start to register. Ok - so I clicked on it and after closing yet another bovine ad from WebMD about a winning a $50 dollar gift certificate for correctly identifying the right picture of Brad Pitt I soon found myself at Pfizer For Living: Where Health Meets Real Life. And of course here's where the initial deal closes ... become a free member and sign-up for newsletters - but not after disclosing reams of personal information. Funny I didn't get to view any of the corporate executives' personal information - why not show the CEO's response?

The research being done on the effects of alcohol on the brain are obviously important to us all. Yet, the vacuous marketing circus that this important information is presented in, likely generated by degree-carrying people that should know better, amounts to nothing less than a cultural embarassment.

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I might need to consider this over a glass of wine.....

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