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Enjoy the Benefits of Alcohol by Knowing the Risks

Adjust your Alcohol Intake Based on New Scientific Evidence

–Mitzi Collinsworth, February 21, 2021


Alcohol consumption dates back to 7000BC, originating from Jiahu, an ancient Chinese farming settlement. The type of alcohol derived from the local natural resource's farming region. Ancient civilizations fermented rice, wheat, maize, cactus, sugar cane, honey, fruit, and more. The list is quite extensive yet impressive, considering the creativity used in the fermentation process that is centuries old (Wikipedia, 2021).

The benefits of alcohol go as far back as their original origin. Many civilizations believed alcohol consumption in moderation provided health benefits, and anything in excess was deemed harmful. In 1500, Medieval Europe used alcohol to avoid water-borne diseases. Some civilizations viewed alcohol as a divine drink either sent to them by the heavens or to celebrate a god. It was common to consume alcohol during meals or in larger consumptions during feasts or festivals (Wikipedia, 2021).

Many modern societies still consume similar alcoholic drinks customary to their local origin. However, our international trading system allows most of the world to enjoy all different alcohol types.

The Risks

I am sharing the risks of alcohol consumption first because I believe it is better to end on a positive note. Let's dive into the risks so you can determine how much you should consume based on the latest fact-based research.

Global Disease. "Alcohol consumption, particularly heavier drinking, is an important risk factor for many health problems and, thus, is a major contributor to the global burden of disease. In fact, alcohol is a necessary underlying cause for more than thirty conditions and a contributing factor to many more" (Rehm, 2011). The most common alcohol-related conditions are the following:

Infectious Disease. You may be wondering how consuming alcohol can put you at risk for infectious diseases like AIDS, Hepatitis, STDs, COVID-19, and other common viruses. There is a link to contracting these diseases because alcohol decreases our inhibitions and increases risky behavior, leading to interactions exposing individuals to these disease risks. These risks significantly increase when drinking heavily or binging. Your ability to make safe decisions under this type of influence decreases.

Cancer. Our ability to break down alcohol varies based on our genetics. It is well known that certain ethnicities struggle to breakdown alcohol compared to others. "The primary manifestation is a highly visible facial flushing (47-85% in Orientals vs. 3-29% in Caucasians) accompanied by other objective and subjective symptoms of discomfort" (Chan, 1986). These symptoms also include the Native American populations in North and South America.

These symptoms derive from the inability to process the broken down by-product of alcohol, "acetaldehyde–a chemical that can damage cells and their DNA" (Smith, 2021). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified acetaldehyde as a known cancer-causing substance, also known as a carcinogen. "The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has also listed acetaldehyde as a Group 1 carcinogen" found primarily in air toxins (Wikipedia, 2021).

Acetaldehyde is not only found in alcohol. This organic chemical compound is also found naturally in coffee, bread, fruit, and plants. This chemical gets into our air by industrial waste, car exhaust, and plant-based building materials. Scientists found that this chemical's exposure comes from spending time indoors around building materials, laminate, linoleum, varnish, paints, and wood materials (Wikipedia, 2021). Acetaldehyde is in both cannabis and tobacco smoke. Our exposure to acetaldehyde comes more from air exposure than ingestion.

It is important to note that even though we cannot control our environmental exposure, we can reduce this carcinogen by drinking alcohol in moderation. Excessive alcohol abuse can lead to the following:

Diabetes. Excessive alcohol consumption can take a toll on your pancreas and affect your body's ability to control blood sugar. This toll can lead to chronic inflammation in the pancreas leading to pancreatitis. This condition is not reversible and will lead to type-2 diabetes. Often this condition is accompanied by obesity, but not always.

Neuropsychiatric Disease. This type of mental disease can stem from excessive alcohol consumption, like alcoholism. Alcoholism can lead to malnutrition, causing memory loss, dementia, hallucinations, hormone disruption, and brain damage (Rawat et al., 2016).

Cardiovascular Disease. In most recent research studies, cardiovascular disease's primary connection stemming from alcohol is binge drinking. Individuals who binge or drink heavily are at the highest risk for stroke, inflammation, and arteriosclerosis–hardening of the arteries. Obesity and smoking increase this risk dramatically, putting too much stress on the body. There is also some associated risk with increased blood pressure or