It is a causal factor in 60 diseases and injuries, and a contributing factor in 200 more, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, alcoholic liver disease, respiratory diseases and pancreatitis.
What may be more surprising is alcohol’s link with cancer. For the past 27 years, alcohol has been recognised as a Group 1 carcinogen. That’s the same carcinogen rating as tobacco and asbestos — meaning there is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer; specifically cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast.
Even more startling: if we were to take the same approach to alcohol as we do to other carcinogens, we’d hardly drink at all.
Adopting the European Food Standards Authority guidelines on exposure to carcinogens in food and drinks, experts argue that exposure should be no more than one thousandth the toxic dose.
For alcohol, that works out to be no more than the equivalent of two drinks a year.
You may wonder: what about alcohol’s purported benefits? Isn’t red wine good for our hearts? Experts say these benefits have been overblown, and any benefits that alcohol may have for the heart are outweighed by the harms, especially if our pattern of drinking includes even occasional episodes of heavy drinking (which may not mean what you think it does: six standard drinks a day is considered heavy).