Skip to content

The Major Side Effect Just One Alcoholic Drink Has on Your Body, Science Says

You may not be as lucid as you feel.
FACT CHECKED BY Cheyenne Buckingham

If you have a glass of wine with dinner, you may not feel like it's affecting you much. You may still feel in control, your thinking may still feel clear, and you may even be able to drive home without any issues.

However, a recent study published in the Journal of Physiology might change the way you think of that single glass. Believe it or not, just one drink can seriously mess with your eye movements, which means that your neural processing is taking a significant hit.

"Looking at a range of eye-movement responses can be used to detect extremely small impairment of neural function," Dr. Leland Stone, senior researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center and senior author of the study, told Eat This, Not That! in an interview. (Related: 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work).

Stone explained that the way eyes are moving can give key information about the cause of the neural impairment. So basically, if your cognitive functioning is damaged because of a concussion, it'll affect your eye movements differently than if it's impaired due to alcohol.

"Some aspects of visuomotor function are impaired after only a small amount of alcohol: one drink or less for the average person," he adds. That means that even if you feel coherent, your level of hand-eye coordination may beg to differ. In other words, don't be so quick to get behind the wheel of your car, even if you feel "all the way there" after one glass.

You might wonder why NASA is looking into the effects of alcohol. We know what you're thinking but, no, it's not because astronauts are constantly throwing parties up in space. (Sigh).

"People should not take this paper to mean that NASA is interested in alcohol," Stone clarifies. "NASA's interest in this research is in supporting the development of such technologies in support of remote and non-invasive health evaluations during space travel, but of course there could be earth-bound applications as well."

For more on how your alcoholic beverages could be affecting your body, be sure to check out What Happens To Your Body If You Drink Alcohol Every Day.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara