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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Chiara Fiorillo

Brits warned drinking ANY amount of alcohol 'puts you at risk of 60 diseases'

Drinking any amount of alcohol can put you at risk of developing 60 diseases including gout and cataracts, a new study has found.

Alcohol consumption accounts for about three million annual deaths worldwide but its connection to several diseases has been uncertain so far.

The harmful effects of heavy drinking for certain diseases including liver cirrhosis, stroke and several types of cancer are well known, but few studies have assessed the impact of alcohol on an extensive range of diseases.

Oxford University researchers analysed data from half a million men living in China and found that alcohol increases the risk of 61 diseases, including many non-fatal conditions not previously linked to alcohol due to limited evidence.

Scientists used data from the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) to assess the health effects of alcohol use on over 200 different diseases.

Among 207 diseases studied, self-reported alcohol intake was linked to an increased risk of 61 diseases in men, including 28 diseases previously established by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as alcohol-related.

Scientists have now linked alcohol consumption to 61 diseases (Getty Images)

But researchers also found an increased risk of 33 diseases not previously linked to alcohol consumption, such as gout, cataract, some fractures, and gastric ulcer.

The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, found that men who drank alcohol regularly had significantly higher risk of developing any disease and experienced more frequent hospitalisations compared to men who had only drunk alcohol occasionally.

Some drinking patterns such as drinking daily or "binge" episodes particularly increased the risks of certain diseases, particularly liver cirrhosis, scientists found.

Alcohol consumption has increased, since the 1990s, in many low and middle-income countries such as China, where it mainly involves men.

Since the number of women regularly drinking alcohol in China is much lower than the number of women, women were used as a control group to confirm that excess disease risk was actually caused by alcohol consumption.

Study author Pek Kei Im said: "Alcohol consumption is adversely related to a much wider range of diseases than has previously been established, and our findings show these associations are likely to be causal."

Professor Liming Li, a senior author and CKB co-PI from Peking University, said: "Levels of alcohol consumption are rising in China, particularly among men.

"This large collaborative study demonstrates a need to strengthen alcohol control policies in China."

Gout, cataracts, some fractures, and gastric ulcer could be linked to alcohol consumptions, scientists said (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Iona Millwood, Associate Professor at Oxford Population Health and a senior author of the study, said: "It is becoming clear that the harmful use of alcohol is one of the most important risk factors for poor health, both in China and globally."

Earlier this year, the WHO published a statement in The Lancet Public Health saying that when it comes to alcohol consumption, there is no safe amount that does not affect health.

Dr Carina Ferreira-Borges, acting Unit Lead for Noncommunicable Disease Management and Regional Advisor for Alcohol and Illicit Drugs in the WHO Regional Office for Europe, said: "We cannot talk about a so-called safe level of alcohol use. It doesn;t matter how much you drink – the risk to the drinker's health starts from the first drop of any alcoholic beverage.

"The only thing that we can say for sure is that the more you drink, the more harmful it is – or, in other words, the less you drink, the safer it is."

She added: "Although it is well established that alcohol can cause cancer, this fact is still not widely known to the public in most countries.

"We need cancer-related health information messages on labels of alcoholic beverages, following the example of tobacco products; we need empowered and trained health professionals who would feel comfortable to inform their patients about alcohol and cancer risk; and we need overall wide awareness of this topic in countries and communities."

Puja Darbari Managing Director of the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking said: "The main analysis of study has a significant limitation as it does not differentiate between light or moderate drinking and heavy drinkers and doesn’t include a comparison with abstainers. The average consumption of those studied was 280g a week, which is more than double the UK guidelines and double guidelines for men in the US.

“In further analyses the author’s own findings support the hundreds of peer-reviewed studies since the 1970s reporting that light and moderate drinkers tend to live at least as long as non-drinkers, and generally live longer than those who drink heavily. For most adults, any risk posed by the moderate consumption of alcohol is low; everyone should avoid drinking to excess, and for some people the better choice may be not to drink at all.

“Anyone with questions about their drinking should speak to their healthcare professionals to better understand the impact of drinking on their individual health.”

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