Until recently, a small amount of alcohol was thought to be beneficial for our health due to micronutrients called polyphenols found especially in red wine (but also present in plants and berries) that have been shown to help prevent cardiovascular disease. However, when it comes to alcohol and cancer, we now know that all types of alcoholic drinks whether this is red or white wine, beer, cocktails or liquor are linked with cancer. We also know that alcohol is associated with seven types of cancer and the risks are directly correlated with how much you drink. Hence, in an ideal world, one should try not to drink at all to reduce the cancer risk but if you do drink, to make sure this is in moderation. In the UK, the guideline is to drink no more than 14 units a week, spread over at least three days for both men and women but clearly, less is better when it comes to cancer.
Drinking alcohol causes 11,900 cases of cancer a year in the UK (CRUK)
It is easy to lose track of how much one is drinking when you are having fun especially during those festive seasons. If smoking is in the mix (see Tackling Smoking for a bit of help), evidence has shown the harmful effects are worse than drinking or smoking alone.
What can be done to reduce alcohol intake?
So, the first thing is to actually recognise and acknowledge the fact that reducing alcohol consumption will have a positive effect on you (however small) as without this awareness, it will be very difficult to put any thoughts into action. Start by having a look at this chart (Drinkaware) to gauge on how much you are drinking – this may be a bit of a wake up call. Then try the following strategies when having / going out for drinks:
- To opt for the smallest serving size
- To alternate between alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic drinks
- To dilute alcoholic drinks with a low-calorie mixer
- When you become more confident, try ‘going dry’ for periods of time (e.g. dry January)
- You can even utilise voice technology through a free App My Alcohol Tracker (by CRUK) connected with Amazon’s Alexa to keep track of things
For those with alcohol dependence / addiction, it would be highly advisable for you to seek professional help immediately. Not only will alcohol be affecting your physical health, by this stage, it will also be spilling over to your psychological well-being as alcohol is known to be a depressant.
Many people don’t know that alcoholic drinks also have a surprising number of calories, hence one of the added health benefits will be that as you begin to reduce your alcohol consumption, you are likely to start losing weight particularly for the heavy drinkers amongst us (if weight is also a problem, see Tackling Obesity). Try out the Alcohol Calorie Calculator by the World Cancer Research Fund to find out just how many calories you are consuming and then flip this on its head by thinking of how much unnecessary calories you would be preventing yourself from gaining by not drinking.
Also, you can calculate how much money you could potentially save by using the Cost of Drinking Calculator by Diabetes.co.uk. You would be surprised at how much of the potential savings could go towards a nice holiday! (see How to Get You in the Holiday Mood)
Cancer Prevention Research >> Achieving Good Health & Resisting Cancer (n = 1) I Tackling Stress I Tackling Sleep I Tackling Obesity I Tackling Smoking I Tackling Poor Diet I Tackling the Lack of Exercise I Tackling Sun Exposure I Tackling the Work-Life Balance I Tackling the Fear of Seeing Your Doctor I Cancer Screening I Cancer Vaccination I Genetic Testing