Heavy drinkers get extra brain fuel from alcohol

Breakdown product boosts brain energy

10:37am, March 8, 2013

Alcohol may give heavy drinkers more than just a buzz. It can also fuel their brains, a new study suggests.

Long-term booze use boosts brain levels of acetate, an energy-rich by-product of alcohol metabolism, researchers report online March 8 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. In the study, people who downed at least eight drinks per week also sucked more energy from acetate than their light-drinking counterparts.

The extra energy may give heavy drinkers more incentive to imbibe, says study coauthor Graeme Mason of Yale University. And the caloric perk might help explain why alcohol withdrawal is so hard.

“I think it's a very good hypothesis,” says biochemical geneticist Ting-Kai Li of Duke University. Scientists had suspected that heavy drinkers absorb and burn more acetate, but, he adds, “Graeme Mason showed that this is actually happening.”

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