3 ways alcohol can affect the body and brain – including changing your DNA

Alcohol drinking guidelines recommends that we drink no more than 14 units a week on a regular basis for men and women.

You can work out how many units there are in any drink by multiplying the total volume of a drink (in ml) by its ABV (measured as a percentage) and dividing the result by 1,000.

The NHS advises spreading your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week.

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But many people drink far over the recommended guidelines and this could be causing worrying health outcomes.

Alcohol consumption is well-known to have damaging effects on a person’s health with three surprising and shocking damages to be aware of.

Alcohol can change your DNA

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In a study published in Wiley Online Library, how binge drinking can affect a person’s DNA was further investigated.

The study involved researchers who compared groups of binge drinkers and heavy drinkers to moderate drinkers which included one drink per day for women or up to two drinks for men.

It was found that an alcohol-induced gene modification process called methylation changed two genes in the bodies of the people in the former group.

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Worryingly, it found that both binge drinking and heavy drinking can actually change your genetic makeup and leave you wanting more alcohol, more often.

Increases the risk of certain cancers

In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, alcohol consumption and specific cancer risk was analysed.

The research further looked at a total of 572 studies, including 486 538 cancer cases.

Cancer risks found included oral, pharyngeal, oesophageal, colorectal and breast cancer.

“Heavy drinkers also had a significantly higher risk of cancer of the stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas and lung,” noted the study.

It concluded: “Alcohol increases risk of cancer of oral cavity and pharynx, oesophagus, colorectum, liver, larynx and female breast. #

“There is accumulating evidence that alcohol drinking is associated with some other cancers such as pancreas and prostate cancer and melanoma.”

Long-term memory and brain function affected

In another study with the University of Oxford, the impact of heavy drinking on the brain was looked at.

Research involved 25,378 participants and found that alcohol consumption was negatively linearly associated with global brain grey matter volume.

It noted: “Binging on alcohol had additive negative effects on brain structure on top of the absolute volume consumed.”

It also found “no safe dose of alcohol for the brain was found.”

Concluding that moderate consumption was also associated with more widespread effects on the brain “than previously recognised.”

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