Alcohol and the amount people drink is the frequent focus of medical studies. However, studying alcohol consumption often results in mixed findings. For example, while drinking too much alcohol can result in liver disease and high blood pressure, other studies have shown that a glass of beer or wine a day can help people live longer. [Related reading: Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding: new study shows possible child cognitive development impact] Now a new study suggests people who abstain from alcohol in middle age may have a heightened risk of dementia later in life. The long-term study, which tracked the health of more than 9,000 civil servants in London, found that middle-aged people who drank over the recommended alcohol limit each week and those who abstained completely were more likely to develop dementia. Specifically, abstinence in midlife was associated with a 45% greater risk of developing dementia compare to people who drank between one and 14 units of alcohol per week. But before you reach for a glass of wine, it should be noted that early life alcohol consumption was not taken into account for the study. People who are teetotal in midlife may have a history of heavy alcohol consumption in their younger years. Indeed, Dr Sara Imarisio, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “As this study only looked at people’s drinking in midlife, we don’t know about their drinking habits earlier in adulthood, and it is possible that this may contribute to their later life dementia risk.” The results of the study were recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Some new mothers drink alcohol while they are breastfeeding and think nothing of it. But a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests they could be impacting their baby’s cognitive abilities. Specifically, the study found that children who were exposed to alcohol through their mothers’ breast milk didn’t perform as well on reasoning tests at ages 6 and 7 as their peers who weren’t exposed to any alcohol. For the study, researchers analysed data on 5,107 infants from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Mothers were asked about their alcohol and tobacco use while breastfeeding, with the ultimate aim being to see if either affected children’s cognitive development. Not only were the test scores of children exposed to alcohol lower, they were lowest for those whose mothers drank the most. However, the researchers found no link between smoking while breastfeeding and test scores. While the researchers were not able to measure the cognitive reductions in a child once they reached 10 or 11, Louse Gibson, a co-author of the study, said that “doesn’t mean that the child has grown out of it, or that the effects of the mother’s alcohol consumption aren’t there anymore.” [Recommended reading: Bottle feeding is a woman’s right, midwives advised]
Individuals who routinely drink more than one alcoholic beverage every day have an overabundance of bad bacteria and less good bacteria in their mouths, a new study has found. Compared to their non-drinking peers, drinkers have less good, such as Lactobacillales that help protect your gums, and more bad bacteria, such as certain Actinomyces, Bacteroidales, and Neisseria species that can lead to gum disease, heart problems and even some cancers. [Related reading: Regular excess drinking found to shorten life expectancy] Publishing their findings in the science journal Microbiome, the study authors said the acids found in alcoholic drinks could make the oral environment hostile for certain bacteria to grow, hence the lower number of so-called good bacteria. For the study, a group of more than 1,000 individuals had their saliva tested. The group included 270 non-drinkers, 614 moderate drinkers and 160 heavy drinkers. The results show that the drinkers had more Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria species of bacteria, all potentially harmful, as well as fewer Lactobacillales, a family of bacteria associated with a reduction of gum inflammation. Talking about the findings of the study, Jiyoung Ahn, the study's senior investigator and an epidemiologist at the NYU School of Medicine, said: "heavy alcohol intake is a known risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including cancers (head and neck, esophagus, colon and breast), liver disease and cardiovascular diseases."
People who regularly drink more than the UK’s recommended alcohol guidelines risk taking years off their lives, a major new report has found. According to the study of some 600,000 drinkers, having 10 to 15 alcoholic drinks every week could shorten a person's life by between one and two years. People who regularly consume more than 18 alcoholic drinks every week could lose four to five years of their lives. UK government guidelines, which were last updated in January 2016, recommend that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week (equivalent to 6 pints of average strength beer). Previously, the guidelines advised 21 units for men and 14 units for women each week. The authors of the Lancet study say their findings support the UK government’s revised guidelines. Commenting on the study’s findings, Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: "This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true. "Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and stroke."
A new large-scale study has found that using aspirin long-term could slash the chances of developing gastrointestinal cancer. Of all the gastrointestinal cancers, which include pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, oesophageal cancer, stomach (or gastric) cancer and small intestine cancer, colorectal cancer is the most common in the western world. While there are a number of lifestyle changes people can make to reduce their risk of developing cancer, including avoiding tobacco, limiting their alcohol consumption, eating healthier and exercising more, an increasing number of studies suggest the use of aspiring could also help. For this latest study, Prof. Kelvin Tsoi, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and his team set out to investigate the effect of aspirin use on gastrointestinal cancers. Over a 10-year period, the team of scientists examined over 600,000 participants and analysed how aspirin use affected their chances of developing gastrointestinal cancer. They found that aspirin users were 47% less likely to have liver and oesophageal cancer, 38% less likely to have stomach cancer, 34% less likely to have pancreatic cancer and 24% less likely to have colorectal cancer. In addition, aspirin use also significantly reduced the risk of leukaemia, lung cancer and prostate cancer.
A new study has found the typical "social business diet", which consists heavily of red meats, sweet drinks, processed snacks and alcohol, has a detrimental effect on a person's heart. Unfortunately, it's a sign of the times that many individuals do not have, or at least don't think they have, enough time to sit down and eat a healthy meal. Instead, many people rely on grab-and-go food items that can be eaten on the road. However, according to a team of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, eating habits such as these up the risks of atherosclerosis - a slow, but steady clogging of one's arteries. In fact, eating out, snacking on the go, and excessive alcohol consumption is more unhealthy than the so-called Western diet. "This business diet is really very bad," said Dr. Valentin Fuster, a cardiology professor from Icahn. "It hits the arteries hard, and strongly contributes to cardiovascular disease risk, the world's number one killer," he added. The American Heart Association says that cardiovascular disease accounts for more than 17 million deaths across the world each year. Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up in a person's arteries, and can raise their risk of blood clots, heart attacks, heart disease and stroke. If people want to lower their risk of cardiovascular problems in the future, they should minimise their consumption of red meat, sweets and alocohol, and increase their intake of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish and nuts.
For someone with high blood pressure, drinking alcohol - even just small amounts - can impact how the lower left chamber of the heart functions, according to a new study from Italy. Researchers found that if a person has high blood pressure, even consuming as little as an ounce of alcohol a day can affect the chamber of the heart that pumps blood to the rest of the body. Lead researcher Dr. Leonardo Sechi said: "Because even moderate alcohol consumption increases occurrence of early functional cardiac changes in patients with [high blood pressure], reduction of use of alcoholic beverages might be beneficial for prevention of cardiac complications in these patients." At present, the cause of this heart damage remains unknown, and further studies will be needed to uncover the exact cause-and-effect relationship, said Sechi. A staggering one-third of US adults have high blood pressure (also referred to as hypertension) today, and it accounts for approximately 1,000 deaths per day in the country. The researchers discovered that the study participants who consumed the most alcohol had thicker left ventricular walls, which stiffened the chamber making it function less effectively. Basically, the more people drank the more difficulty their hearts had filling with blood in between each heartbeat. It should be noted that until the results are published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be considered preliminary.
Every year, tens of thousands of breast cancer cases diagnosed in the US and Europe are linked to alcohol consumption. Moreover, alcohol has also frequently been linked to an increased risk of cancer recurrence in women with early-stage breast cancer. But now a new study has found that a direct link exists between alcohol, estrogen and a cancer-causing gene. Researchers from the University of Houston in Texas, led by cancer biologist Chin-Yo Lin, say that despite breast cancer being one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for women and alcohol consumption already identified as a modifiable risk factor, 50% of women with the disease still drink some alcoholic beverages. Lin's team discovered that alcohol promotes the expression of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF. Furthermore, it mimic and enhances the effects of estrogen, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Finally, the team also found that alcohol weakened the ability of cancer drug tamoxifen to suppress cancer cell growth. "Alcohol consumption is prevalent among women in the US and is a risk factor for breast cancer. Our research shows alcohol enhances the actions of estrogen in driving the growth of breast cancer cells and diminishes the effects of the cancer drug tamoxifen on blocking estrogen by increasing the levels of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF," said Lin. The team's findings were published in the journal PLOS One.
The UK Department of Health has published new guidelines regarding the consumption of alcohol and they make for sobering reading if you’re fond of a regular daily tipple. According to the tough new guidelines, which are based on the findings of worldwide research, any amount of alcohol can increase a person’s risk of cancer and, as a result, men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week. That’s roughly equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or seven glasses of wine. The advice for pregnant women is simple: no alcohol at all until after baby has been born. Furthermore, if people drink, they should do so moderately over three or more days and have some days that are totally alcohol-free. The guidelines also state that people shouldn’t “save up” their units and drink them all over a short space of time, like a weekend. Heavy drinking sessions, it says, increase the risk of accidents and injury. Talking about the revised guidelines, Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said: "Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone, but if men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week, it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low." The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the UK says that alcohol contributes to over 60 medical conditions, including some cancers, stroke and heart disease. It is thought that approximately one in 20 of all new cancer diagnoses in the UK are linked to a person’s alcohol consumption.