Drink Less, Live Longer: The Latest Research

It is very common in society today to drink alcohol on a regular basis. Teenagers may drink at parties on the weekend because of peer pressure, while adults may enjoy a few glasses of wine after work to wind down.

According to National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, here is a statistic of alcohol use in the United States:

In 2014, 87.6 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 71.0 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 56.9 percent reported that they drank in the past month.

The statistic above shows that drinking alcohol is extremely prevalent in the U.S. Drinking on a regular basis does not necessarily mean one may have a drinking problem, but it could be causing significant issues to one’s health. The effects of drinking range from person to person, but here are 4 harmful effects of drinking alcohol regularly.

1. Pancreatitis

According to Drinkaware two-thirds of cases of chronic pancreatitis occur in people who have a history of heavy drinking.

There are two types of pancreatitis, acute and chronic. Both types of pancreatitis can be caused by heavy alcohol use.

2. Several types of cancer

It is scientifically proven that alcohol is a known carcinogen.

Alcohol has been linked to several different cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute:

  • Head and neck cancer: Alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for certain head and neck cancers, particularly cancers of the oral cavity (excluding the lips), pharynx (throat), and larynx (voice box). People who consume 50 or more grams of alcohol per day (approximately 3.5 or more drinks per day) have at least a two to three times greater risk of developing these cancers than nondrinkers. Moreover, the risks of these cancers are substantially higher among persons who consume this amount of alcohol and also use tobacco.
  • Esophageal cancer: Alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for a particular type of esophageal cancer called esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. In addition, people who inherit a deficiency in an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol have been found to have substantially increased risks of alcohol-related esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Liver cancer: Alcohol consumption is an independent risk factor for, and a primary cause of, liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). (Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus are the other major causes of liver cancer.)
  • Breast cancer: More than 100 epidemiologic studies have looked at the association between alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer in women. These studies have consistently found an increased risk of breast cancer associated with increasing alcohol intake. A meta-analysis of 53 of these studies (which included a total of 58,000 women with breast cancer) showed that women who drank more than 45 grams of alcohol per day (approximately three drinks) had 1.5 times the risk of developing breast cancer as nondrinkers (a modestly increased risk). The risk of breast cancer was higher across all levels of alcohol intake: for every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day (slightly less than one drink), researchers observed a small (7 percent) increase in the risk of breast cancer.

The Million Women Study in the United Kingdom (which included more than 28,000 women with breast cancer) provided a more recent, and slightly higher, estimate of breast cancer risk at low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption: every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day was associated with a 12 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer.

  • Colorectal cancer: Alcohol consumption is associated with a modestly increased risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. A meta-analysis of 57 cohort and case-control studies that examined the association between alcohol consumption and colorectal cancer risk showed that people who regularly drank 50 or more grams of alcohol per day (approximately 3.5 drinks) had 1.5 times the risk of developing colorectal cancer as nondrinkers or occasional drinkers. For every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day, there was a small (7 percent) increase in the risk of colorectal cancer.

3. Depression

Although alcohol is used to start a party or may drink alcohol to catch a buzz, it is considered a depressant.

Drinkaware states that:

If you drink heavily and regularly you’re likely to develop some symptoms of depression. It’s that good old brain chemistry at work again. Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain – a chemical that helps to regulate your mood.

Due to alcohol being a depressant, suicidal behavior has been linked to alcohol abuse. Alcohol use can be extremely dangerous for individuals who are prone to getting depression.

4. Liver disease

Alcohol-related liver disease is widespread in the United States, according to Alcohol Screening:

More than 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol-related liver disease. Some drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, as a result of long-term heavy drinking. Its symptoms include fever, jaundice (abnormal yellowing of the skin, eyeballs, and urine), and abdominal pain. Alcoholic hepatitis can cause death if drinking continues. If drinking stops, this condition often is reversible.

About 10 to 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop alcoholic cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. Alcoholic cirrhosis can cause death if drinking continues. Although cirrhosis is not reversible, if drinking stops, one’s chances of survival improve considerably. Those with cirrhosis often feel better, and the functioning of their liver may improve, if they stop drinking. Although liver transplantation may be needed as a last resort, many people with cirrhosis who abstain from alcohol may never need liver transplantation. In addition, treatment for the complications of cirrhosis is available.

How much is too much?

The amount of alcohol one can safely drink varies from person to person.

According to Patient Info:

  • Men should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, these units should be spread out through the week and they should have at least two alcohol-free days a week.
  • Women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, these units should be spread out through the week and they should have at least two alcohol-free days a week.

Benefits of cutting back or stopping alcohol use

Collective evolution shares some amazing benefits of cutting back on alcohol

  • Increased mood
  • More savings
  • No hangovers
  • More time to get things done
  • Not having regrets from something stupid you may have done
  • Better memory
  • Healthier lifestyle

It is acceptable to have a drink regularly, in some cases it’s even recommended (like red wine)! Nonetheless, it is crucial to know the dangers of drinking alcohol regularly or in excess. Cheers!

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