Column: Live Longer, Live Stronger — Alcohol is a human breast carcinogen

Saman Taheri

For the first time in 20 years, fewer Americans are regularly drinking alcohol. Along with it, nonalcoholic beverages are becoming more available to help individuals who need time to transition away from the flavors and experience they’ve become accustomed to with alcohol, and the lower cost, lower calories and health benefits are great. The sales of nonalcoholic beverages shot up 33% in 2021. Water and tea are best for our bodies, but if you need transition time away from alcohol, these alternatives are a much better choice.

But you still may think drinking red wine is healthy; how did that ever start?

In the 1980s, a theory emerged from French scientists called the French paradox, indicating red wine was the reason the French had a low incidence of death from heart disease, even though they eat a higher amount of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. Antioxidant compounds in red wine were credited with being protective for the heart.

That theory, however, was never proven. Red wine is actually detrimental to your heart. Research shows even low amounts of alcohol increase your risk of atrial fib, an irregular heartbeat that increases your risk for blood clots, stroke and heart failure. Alcohol abuse may also increase the risk for a heart attack and congestive heart failure.

The data is from alcohol in general, not specifically red wine, but you cannot separate out red wine from alcohol — it does not, in fact, have special properties that put it in a category of its own. Alcohol increases blood pressure. Those who completely abstain from alcohol seem to be at the lowest risk of atherosclerosis.

Additional research shows physicians need to be highly skeptical about the health benefits of alcohol consumption, and they should not advise their patients to drink to improve their longevity. This is especially important, given increasing awareness of cancer risks from even moderate alcohol use.

Alcohol is classified as a human breast carcinogen, meaning it causes breast cancer, and many other cancers have been linked to alcohol consumption. Given the cancer risk, the ideal alcohol intake on a routine day-to-day basis should be zero. One source said the apparent benefits of drinking alcohol are now evaporating, and health professionals should discourage drinking.

Given alcohol damages brain cells, is addictive, and is a depressant high in calories and cost, as well as causes cancer and impairs sleep patterns, it’s a good time to consider all the benefits of abstaining from it.

It’s important to know the facts. If you’re interested in learning more, go to Nutritionfacts.org and search “alcohol.” Discuss this topic with your friends — enlighten them on information they’ve potentially never heard before. Talk to them about reducing consumption together, and loop back with them in a few days or weeks to see how much better they feel with less alcohol in their bodies. Improve your health on the shelf by getting rid of the bottles to live longer and live stronger!

Cheryl Mothes is a natural health nutrition counselor who loves helping others realize the impact nutrition can have on living their best, as well as preventing and reversing disease. She and her husband Rick Hetzel own Fresh Healthy Café to offer healthy food choices to the community.