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Alcohol and health: the honeymoon is over

The Lancet released a study last week (covering approx. 115,000 people in 12 different countries) which has convincingly shown that drinking alcohol does not result in net health benefits. In fact, alcohol consumption increases the risk of alcohol related cancers by 51%: quite a punch (ouch). I suppose it's celebratory news for us lightweights, and not so good for those who have a close relationship with their favourite, regular drink (sorry).

It is true that there appear to be some health benefits associated with alcohol consumption: this is especially true for wine drinkers - a wine drinkers risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease is lower than that of a non drinker. But that cannot be said for the cancer risks (38% higher in wine drinkers than non drinkers). Gulp.

The 51% increased risk for alcohol related cancers include mouth, esophageal, stomach, colorectal, liver, breast, ovary and head and neck cancer. Nasty.

In addition to the study above...if we dig a bit deeper and enter the individualised clinical setting, I think many of you will agree that over consumption of alcohol has not led to great success in desired lifestyle changes. The behavioural slippery slope that ensues when a person has had one-too-many includes: eating those foods you didn't really want to (greasy kebab to further aggravate that grumbling gallbladder?), taking drugs you were trying to stop leading to the munchies (a whole box of muffins gone...), saying mean things to somebody you love and so on.

For those of you who are reading this and thinking, my Lord she is such a wet lettuce - here are some further tips for prevention of lifestyle related cancers for those of you who wish to continue a lot of drinking. Perhaps you can make a difference with masses of vegetables, and continue that bottle of wine :-)

  1. Do not smoke (even if the wine tells you to!)

  2. Be as lean as possible without being underweight. Do not go by the number on the weighing scale - keep your waist trim and if possible be assessed for body fat percentage and keep that in the lower end of the recommended value for your gender. Women, don't go below that or you will likely experience menstrual/fertility challenges which bring a whole host of other health risks.

  3. Eat a diet super rich in a variety of colourful vegetables and plant based foods (legumes, natural nuts, seeds, all the colours of the rainbow in vegetable form).

  4. Eat low amounts of animal fats - fill up on unadulterated plant fats e.g. olives, avocados, raw nut butters.

  5. Keep active with at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily (sweat out that hangover :-))

  6. Avoid high glycaemic foods (refined carbohydrates, added 'free sugars')

  7. Do not eat processed meats.

  8. Concentrate on a low salt diet - easily done when you're eating mountains of veg.

Instead of your glass of wine tonight, how about you try some chamomile tea...


But seriously, take a look at your lifestyle and see where reducing alcohol may make a massive difference to some of your poorer choices.

Have a lovely week :-)

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