Stay away from alcohol and you run a higher risk of heart attack and ischemic stroke. Excessively drink, which, according to the National Institutes of Health, is 12-15 drinks weekly, and you run a higher risk of developing breast, upper gastrointestinal, colorectal or liver cancer.
So how much alcohol should you drink?
Unfortunately, limiting your alcohol consumption is not going to do you any good either.
In 2011, it was revealed in an epidemiological study of eight Western European countries that alcohol accounted for 1 out of every 10 cancer cases in men, and 1 out of every 30 cancer cases in women. The problem is, this study was not just based on heavy drinkers and the results were shocking. Even those that consumed only 1 or 2 drinks a day were at risk for developing cancer.
Today we are going to look at the effect alcohol has on your body and ways to lower your risk of developing cancer, while still enjoying your favorite grown-up beverages.
What Happens When You Consume Alcohol
When you consume alcohol your body coverts it into a seriously dangerous compound called acetaldehyde. This compound is so dangerous that the International Agency for Research on Cancer would have enough evidence to officially classify it as a cancer causing carcinogen.
Acetaldehyde is a highly reactive molecule that has several damaging effects on your body such as:
- Binding to your body’s DNA causing mutations that can prompt cancer development.
- Producing a reactive oxygen species (ROS) that causes inflammation that can cause tumor growth.
- Impairment your cells’ natural antioxidant defense systems.
- Depletion of your body’s vitamin B6 storage.
- Interference with folic acid and blockage of your cells’ natural DNA repair mechanisms.
Despite your risk of heart attack and ischemic stroke, many health professionals will tell you that in order to avoid the dire effects of acetaldehyde on your body, you should simply refrain from consuming alcohol.
However, this is not realistic by most people’s standards. Alcohol is often consumed in social settings, has a tight grip on those with alcohol dependencies, and even has some minor cardiovascular health benefits when used in small to moderate amounts.
The truth is, not everyone is going to quit drinking cold turkey. Luckily, there are nutrients that can help combat the effects of acetaldehyde on your body if you choose to continue drinking alcohol.
The combination of excessive alcohol consumption and low antioxidant vitamin intake has the potential to increase your chances of developing colon cancer 6-fold. This is why introducing Life Extension® antioxidant vitamins into your regular diet is essential for lowering your risk of not only colon cancer but other cancers as well.
Some of the most important antioxidant vitamins include: vitamin B6, Carotene, Folic Acid, Niacin, vitamin C, E, and D, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Zinc, and Lycopene. When ingested in adequate amounts, these vitamins are able to protect your body’s DNA from acetaldehyde damage and reduce inflammation that may activate tumor growth.
Selenium is responsible for the antioxidant and DNA repair functions in your body that protect your DNA from mutations, much like the ones acetaldehyde can cause after consuming alcohol. Deficiencies in selenium levels are most notably found in those that drink alcohol regularly.
This shortage is a major risk factor for colon and liver cancer. However, those with higher selenium levels are thought to have a 50% less chance of being diagnosed with either cancer.
Glutathione and N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
Your body’s natural antioxidant systems are taxed when faced with acetaldehyde and the oxidative stress that follows alcohol consumption.
One such antioxidant that is affected is glutathione. An important antioxidant that prevents cellular damage, glutathione is often depleted in the presence of acetaldehyde and can prompt alcohol-related cancers to form.
One way to restore your body’s glutathione levels back to normal is to consume N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). When taking correctly, NAC binds to the present acetaldehyde preventing it from causing damage to the surrounding cells. These results, along with glutathione replenishment, were more profound when accompanied with vitamin C and thiamine.
Benfotiamine is the fat-soluble form of thiamine and is best known for protecting diabetics against advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are known for causing inflammation and oxidative cell damage, both known causes of cancer formation. Benfotiamine is also helpful in protecting your DNA from being damaged due to alcohol consumption and the presence of acetaldehyde.
Folic Acid and SAMe
When you consume alcohol, not only do you damage your cells antioxidant defense systems, but you deplete your body of essential nutrients required for your body to function properly. Deficiencies in folic acid, zinc, and methionine are often found among regular drinkers.
Without these essential nutrients your body cannot properly suppress proto-oncogenes (aka cancer genes) so the formation of cancer is more likely. For instance, men consuming 2+ drinks daily are thought to have a 65% increased chance of getting colon cancer, while women consuming the same have a whopping 84% higher chance.
The solution to this depletion of much needed nutrients is to supplement your diet with folic acid, zinc, and S-adenosylmethionine or SAMe (which also helps with glutathione replenishment for additional DNA protection).
This water-soluble form of the pigment chlorophyll has helped prevent liver cancer which often develops because of ingested toxins such as alcohol. Chlorophyllin is thought to bind to many types of carcinogens and toxins and force them to be excreted from the body before they cause any damage to your body’s DNA. In addition, by binding to your intestines, chlorophllin prevents carcinogens from absorbing into your body.
Grape Seed Extracts
Known as powerful antioxidants, grape seed extracts improve your body’s existing antioxidant systems, further protecting your cells from DNA and cellular damage. These extracts have also been found to prevent oxidative damage from alcohol in animal tissue studies. One of the reasons grape seed extracts are so helpful against cancer-causing compounds is the fact that they are highly absorbent in the human body making them extremely effective.
Silymarin (from Milk Thistle)
Silymarin is a compound extracted from milk thistle and is used to promote liver health and the excretion of alcohol induced toxins from the body. Here are some of the great things consuming silymarin can do for your body:
- Prevents alcohol from converting into acetaldehyde.
- Slows the production of cells, which is especially helpful if those cells are cancerous.
- Stabilizes cell membranes.
- Promotes normal liver cell regeneration.
- Reduces agents of inflammation.
- Increases the lifespan of those diagnosed with cirrhosis (a precursor to liver cancer).
- Inhibits metastases so cancerous cells do not spread.
Amongst chronic alcohol drinkers, picrorhiza has the ability to reverse biochemical changes caused by alcohol-related toxins. It also inhibits cancerous cell growth and reduces inflammation that can lead to tumor growth. This method of reducing inflammation also promotes cancer cell death and has proven very effective in stopping alcohol-related cancers from spreading.
Barley is an antioxidant-rich grain filled with fiber that helps prevent alcohol induced gastrointestinal cancers from forming. It also contain a cancer-suppressing protein called lunasin (first discovered in soy protein) that stops tumor cell colonies and protects your body’s DNA from becoming mutated. Lastly, barley’s prebiotic abilities help protect your intestinal tract from cancer-causing toxins that may lead to colon cancer.
Resveratrol is derived from grapes and other plants. This polyphenol has many health benefits when it comes to protecting your body from alcohol-related health issues. Let’s take a look:
- Protects DNA and mitochondria from alcohol-related damage.
- Even if DNA damage has already occurred, it can initiate the DNA repair functions to heal the cell change before it turns cancerous.
- Turns off inflammatory cytokines that can spur cancer growth.
In the end, acetaldehyde increases your risks of many cancers by causing oxidative stress that damages DNA, preventing your body from repairing damaged DNA, and initiates inflammatory responses that can lead to cancerous cell accumulation.
Most people are not willing to forgo alcohol for their entire lives. In fact, it may not even be wise to do that anyways since moderate alcohol intake has some minimal health benefits. That is why it’s important to take your health seriously and prevent any damages from occurring that you can.
Luckily, there are many nutrients that can aid in lowering your risk of alcohol-induced cancers, DNA damage, and inflammation. As a Life Extension Consultant, Dr. Fraiman has extensive knowledge about the nutrients that can provide you protection from the damaging effects alcohol can have on your body.