Alcohol increases the risk for mortality from accidents, heart disease, liver disease, and several types of cancers, including tumors of the mouth, throat, breast, liver, esophagus, and colon. How much alcohol is too much?

Public service announcements routinely inform the community about the dangers of alcohol abuse. It’s common knowledge that heavy drinking increases the risk of death from car crashes and other accidents. The latest news is that even light drinking interferes with driving skills, even when the individual shows no change in behavior or appearance.

Is alcohol good for your heart?

Moderate drinking is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Research once suggested that drinking red wine might protect against heart disease, but that was never proven true. Resveratrol, the active component in red wine, improves cardiovascular function in rodents, but in humans the exact opposite is true. So far, we have no evidence that drinking red wine is beneficial for humans. Instead, alcohol can significantly impair heart function in humans.

Alcohol causes cancer and no amount is safe

We have very strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer and the more an individual drinks over time, the greater the risk. Women who drink less than one drink per day, significantly increase their risk for breast cancer. Unfortunately, even a very small amount of alcohol increases the risk for cancer. Just a single sip of strong alcohol exposes you to a measurable amount of carcinogens in your mouth.

The more we learn about alcohol, the less there is to like about it. Although wildly popular, alcohol is simply toxic to your system. Moderate alcohol consumption does not protect you from illness or increase your lifespan. Alcohol does not help at all.

Resources

Ebe K, Itoh K, Kwee IL, Nakada T. Covert effects of “one drink” of alcohol on brain processes related to car driving: an event-related potential study. Neurosci Lett. 2015 Apr 23;593:78-82.

L Gliemann, J F Schmidt, J Olesen, R S Bienso, S L Peronard, S U Grandjean, S P Mortensen, M Nyberg, J Bangsbo, H Pilegaard, Y Hellsten. Resveratrol blunts the positive effects of exercise training on cardiovascular health in aged men. J Physiol. 2013 Oct 15;591(Pt 20):5047-59.

Linderborg K, Salaspuro M, Vakevainen S. A single sip of a strong alcoholic beverage causes exposure to carcinogenic concentrations of acetaldehyde in the oral cavity. Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Sep;49(9):2103-6.

Baan R, Straif K, Grosse Y, Secretan B, et al. on behalf of the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group. Carcinogenicity of alcoholic beverages. Lancet Oncol. 2007;8:292–293.

Lachenmeier DW, Kanteres F, Rehm J. Carcinogenicity of acetaldehyde in alcoholic beverages: risk assessment outside ethanol metabolism. Addiction. 2009 Apr;104(4):533-50.

Chen WY, Rosner B, Hankinson SE, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Moderate alcohol consumption during adult life, drinking patterns, and breast cancer risk. JAMA. 2011 Nov 2;306(17):1884-90.