Blog Post - News, Views and Tips
I suspect that you’ve all heard the advice that drinking small amounts of alcohol can protect the heart against coronary heart disease and assist in slowing ageing by increasing the length of DNA protective Telomers. While this may medically be the case, it is good to know that these benefits have a cut off of just 1 unit of alcohol per day for women and up to 2 units per day for men. Drinking any more than this actually increases your risk of heart disease.
However it is not just coronary heart disease that causes concern, but did you know that drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing seven types of cancer. Pharyngeal cancer, Gullet cancer, Mouth cancer, Laryngeal cancer, Breast cancer, Liver cancer and Bowel cancer.
Have I got your attention yet? I hope so!
I guess we just don’t think cancer and heart disease will come to us. We all like to believe that we will pass away peacefully and disease free at 100 years old, and I truly hope that this is the case with all of you. However the reality is that for the vast majority of us, this won’t be the case. UK figures from the Office of National Statistics, and replicated pretty consistently across the Developed World, clearly show Coronary heart disease and cancer as the biggest causes of mortality from the age of 35 onwards.
The more you drink alcohol the more your risk of cancer and heart disease goes up, and this is true with all seven of the above mentioned cancers. Don’t be fooled by thinking that you are off the hook if you binge drink once a week either, as studies suggest that the total amount of alcohol you drink over time has a much bigger effect on cancer risk than how or when it is drunk. This means that the risk is the same whether you drink steadily through the week or drink lots all in one go. For reference the NHS definition of Binge drinking is drinking 6 units (2 large glasses of wine) for women, or 8 units (3 pints of strong beer) for men, in a short space of time and Binge drinking actually poses additional risk in that nearly 30% of alcohol related deaths are as a direct result of alcohol related accidents.
Remember, when it comes to cancer, no type of alcohol (including red wine) is better for you. This is because all alcohol is changed into a chemical called acetaldehyde, and it is this chemical that damages cells which can then trigger cancer to develop.
Other reasons to cut down on alcohol –
1) Alcohol changes hormone levels in the body. Oestrogen, testosterone and insulin are key ones affected and may explain why alcohol increases the risk of cancers such as breast cancer, which are linked to high hormone levels.
2) Alcohol can make you gain a lot of fat, because alcohol itself and especially some types of alcoholic drinks are calorie dense. Again, being overweight also increases the risk of cancers of the kidney, bowel, gallbladder, gullet, pancreas, breast and womb.
So, back to the original question – how much is too much?
I think the best answer is – Enjoy alcohol in moderation, spaced with soft drinks and some of your favourite foods. Meanwhile, exercise on a regular basis, stretch daily, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, try to keep stress levels low and stick to the 80/20 rule that basically means eat as good as you can most of the week by sticking to a balanced diet including lots of fruit and veg, and enjoy a treat day once a week that does not include a binge drinking session. Above all try to think of your body as a beautiful work of art, and treat it with the love and respect it deserves, or as an engine that works best being well maintained and fed with high quality fuel.