What damage does alcohol do to our bodies? Print

Long term, it increases the risk of developing a long list of health conditions including breast cancer, oral cancers, heart disease, strokes and cirrhosis of the liver. Research shows that a high alcohol intake can also damage our mental health, impair memory skills and reduce fertility.

Drinking more than three drinks a day has been found to have a direct and damaging effect on the heart. Heavy drinking, particularly over time, can lead to high blood pressure, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure and stroke. Heavy drinking also puts more fat into the circulation of the body.

The link between alcohol and cancer is well established, says Cancer Research UK. A study published in the BMJ this year estimated that alcohol consumption causes at least 13,000 cancer cases in the UK each year.

Cancer experts say that for every additional 10g per day of alcohol drunk, the risk of breast cancer increases by approximately 7-12%.

For bowel cancer, previous studies show that increasing alcohol intake by 100g per week increases the cancer risk by 19%.

A recent report in BioMed Central's Immunology journal found that alcohol impairs the body's ability to fight off viral infections.

And studies on fertility suggest that even light drinking can make women less likely to conceive while heavy drinking in men can lower sperm quality and quantity.

Dr KJ Patel, from the Medical Research Council's laboratory of molecular biology in Cambridge, recently completed a study into the toxic effects of alcohol on mice.

Foetal alcohol syndrome, he says, "can give rise to children who are seriously damaged, born with head and facial abnormalities and mental disabilities".

'More harmful than heroin or crack'

Alcohol is undoubtedly a public health issue too.

Last year, a study in The Lancet concluded that alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack when the overall dangers to the individual and society are considered.

The study by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs also ranked alcohol as three times more harmful than cocaine or tobacco because it is so widely used.

Ref: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15114325
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