· According to new guidelines published by the UK’s Department of Health, consumption of any level of alcohol increases the risk of a range of cancers
· The guidelines, based on findings of research worldwide, aim to decrease the risk of mortality from cancers and other disorders
· When the original guidelines were published in 1995, the links between alcohol and cancer were not fully understood
· Now, new evidence shows that the risks start from any level of regular drinking, and the more one drinks, the higher the risk
· According to the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health, alcohol contributes to over 60 medical conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and some cancers
· About 1 in 20 of all new cancers in the UK stem from alcohol consumption
· Drinking even a small amount of alcohol increases the risk of some cancers, compared with people who do not drink at all, according to the UK’s Committee on Carcinogenicity
· The risk of developing some alcohol-related cancers reduces over time when people stop drinking, but it can take many years to return to the levels found in people who have never drank alcohol
· Lower limits for men’s consumption
· The benefits of alcohol for heart health only apply for women aged 55 and over
o These women should limit their intake to around 5 units per week, or the equivalent of around 2 standard glasses of wine
· Drinking alcohol can increase women’s risk of mouth, throat and breast cancer
· The recommended upper limit of consumption for women remains at 14 units per week
· However, where men were previously advised not to exceed 21 units a week, that limit has now dropped to 14 units, or around 6 pints of average-strength beer
· In the UK, men account for 65% of alcohol-related deaths
· People are also being advised not to "save up" the 14 units for 1-2 days, but to spread them over 3 or more days.
· Having several alcohol-free days a week is suggested as a way to reduce intake.
· Having one to two heavy drinking sessions each week increases the risk of death from long-term illnesses, as well as accidents and injuries.
· Pregnant women should avoid alcohol
o Pregnant women are now being told to avoid all alcohol; no level of alcohol is safe to drink in pregnancy.
o The previous advice to limit intake to 1-2 units of alcohol once or twice per week has been removed to provide greater clarity as a precaution.
o While small amounts of alcohol consumed before becoming aware of the pregnancy present a low risk to the baby, there is no "safe" level of alcohol for pregnant women to drink.
· New advice on single episodes of drinking includes limiting the total amount of alcohol consumed on any one occasion and drinking slowly.
· People are also advised to consume food while drinking and to drink water alternately with alcohol.
· Since the short-term risks for individuals vary widely, guidance about a set number of units for a single occasion or day are not currently included in the guidelines.
· Those who should be particularly careful include young adults, older people, those with low body weight or other health problems, and those using medicines or other drugs.
FACTS ABOUT ALCOHOL
· In the US, a standard drink contains 0.6 ounces of alcohol
· This is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer at 5% alcohol content, 5 ounces of wine at 12% or 1.5 ounces of liquor at 40%
· "Heaving drinking" is defined as eight drinks or more a week for women and fifteen or more for men.
BENEFITS OF RED WINE
· Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart healthy.
· Antioxidants in red wine may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) and protecting against artery damage.
· Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart.
o A polyphenol called resveratrol is one substance in red wine
· RESVERATROL: may be a key ingredient in red wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and prevents blood clots.
o The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine.
o Because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than is white wine, red wine contains more resveratrol.
o Simply eating grapes, or drinking grape juice, has been suggested as one way to get resveratrol without drinking alcohol.
o Red and purple grape juices may have some of the same heart-healthy benefits of red wine.
o Most research on resveratrol has been done on animals
o Research in mice given resveratrol suggests that the antioxidant might also help protect them from obesity and diabetes, both of which are strong risk factors for heart disease.
o Research in pigs has shown that resveratrol may improve heart function and increase the body's ability to use insulin.
o Some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease.
o One study showed that resveratrol may actually reduce the positive effect of exercise on the heart in older men.
o It's also important to know that resveratrol's effects only last a short time after drinking red wine, so its effects may not last in the long term.
HOW DOES ALCOHOL HELP THE HEART?
· Various studies have shown that moderate amounts of all types of alcohol benefit your heart, not just alcohol found in red wine. It's thought that alcohol:
o Raises high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol
o Reduces the formation of blood clots
o Helps prevent artery damage caused by high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol
o Produces changes in blood pressure
DRINK IN MODERATION — OR NOT AT ALL
· Red wine's potential heart-healthy benefits look promising.
· Those who drink moderate amounts of alcohol, including red wine, seem to have a lower risk of heart disease.
· However, more research is needed before we know whether red wine is better for your heart than are other forms of alcohol, such as beer or spirits.
· Neither the American Heart Association nor the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that you start drinking alcohol just to prevent heart disease.
· Alcohol can be addictive and can cause or worsen other health problems.
· Drinking too much alcohol increases your risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity, certain types of cancer, accidents and other problems.
· Drinking too much alcohol regularly can cause weakened heart muscle, leading to symptoms of heart failure in some people.
· If you have heart failure or a weak heart, you should avoid alcohol completely.
· If you take aspirin daily, you should avoid or limit alcohol, depending on your doctor's advice. You also shouldn't drink alcohol if you're pregnant.
· If you have questions about the benefits and risks of alcohol, talk to your doctor about specific recommendations for you.
· If you already drink red wine, do so in moderation.
· For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
· The limit for men is higher because men generally weigh more and have more of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women do.