Alcohol consumption may raise risk of over 60 different diseases, NEW study suggests

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alcohol-consumption(NaturalHealth365)  While Dry January and Sober October get airtime every year, sobriety seems to be becoming much more normalized these days, with an explosion of non-alcoholic beverages flooding the market and social media accounts celebrating sober living.

A GREAT trend as far as health trends go, wouldn’t you say?  And if you’ve been looking for more reasons to cut back on your alcohol consumption, a new study offers at least sixty of them.

Drinking alcohol linked to over 60 chronic diseases, half of which have not been previously associated with alcohol consumption

On January 4, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a bold statement: “No level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health.”

In their statement, the WHO warned that alcohol “is a toxic, psychoactive, and dependence-producing substance and has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen … this is the highest risk group, which also includes asbestos, radiation and tobacco.”  The WHO also noted that alcohol “causes at least seven types of cancer,” including breast and colorectal cancer.

Now, a new study in Nature Medicine underscores the dangerous impact that alcohol can have on human health.  A team of researchers from Oxford University, Peking University, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences analyzed health data and drinking patterns of over 512,000 adults.  Based on their data analysis, they found that alcohol consumption – particularly for men – was associated with an increased risk of 61 diseases, including heart disease, stroke, liver cirrhosis, cancer, and even somewhat surprising conditions like cataracts, bone fractures, gastric ulcers, and gout.  In fact, more than half of the diseases they found to be linked to alcohol consumption had not been previously recognized as alcohol-related by the WHO.

The researchers also corroborated earlier findings which suggest that the risks of alcohol are dose-dependent—in other words, the more you drink, the greater risk to your health. For example, the researchers concluded that for every four drinks a person consumes per day, they have a 14 percent higher risk of developing an alcohol-related disease.

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How to optimize your health if you choose to drink alcohol

Let’s face it: a growing body of evidence suggests that there is no known amount of alcohol that is considered safe to drink.  Health risks – including an increased risk of cancer – have been associated even with “light” or “moderate” intake levels, which the WHO defines as less than 1.5 liters of wine (about 10 glasses) per week, less than 3.5 liters of beer (about 7 cans) per week, or less than 450 milliliters of spirits (about 10 standard shots) per week.  Note that the key phrase there is less than – in other words, even if you “only” drink one glass of wine with dinner every night, you still are likely subjecting yourself to at least some level of increased health risk.

And with at least 40 million people drinking too much in the United States as of 2018, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – a figure that almost certainly has increased post-pandemic – there’s no question that our nation’s drinking habits could help explain the rising rates of cancer.

That said, if you do choose to incorporate at least some alcoholic beverages into your lifestyle, here are some things you can do that may help mitigate some of the associated risks:

  • Drink infrequently and limit your intake – the National Institutes of Health advise no more than 7 standard drinks per week for women and 14 standard drinks per week for men … and “less is better”
  • Avoid drinking alcohol within four hours of bedtime – this may help minimize the negative effects that alcohol has on sleep quality
  • Consume alcohol with food – drinking on an empty stomach allows alcohol to get into your bloodstream more quickly, which could cause you to feel the effects faster and impair your impulse control, making it harder to control your drinking
  • While you’re at it, stay well hydrated, too – a good rule of thumb is one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume
  • Finally, if you’re having a glass of wine or a cocktail, be mindful of how much you’re actually served – one “glass” of wine is often WAY more than a true standard serving (5 fluid ounces) … so even if you “only” have two glasses of wine with dinner, you may actually end up drinking closer to four or five – and if you never have before, go ahead and measure out 5 fl. oz of wine sometime to see just how much this amount really is!

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