Can Alcohol Cause Cancer?

Can Alcohol Cause Cancer?
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If even light drinking can cause cancer, why don’t doctors warn their patients about it?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

We’ve known about the possible association between the consumption of alcohol and excessive mortality from cancer for more than a hundred years. Though the evidence is accumulating that alcohol drinking is also associated with pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and melanoma, we’re pretty certain that alcohol increases risk of mouth cancer, throat cancer, esophageal cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, voice-box cancer, and breast cancer. Current estimates suggest that alcohol causes about 5.8% of all cancer deaths in these organs worldwide.

Here’s how that breaks down for men and women. In men, alcohol causes mostly head and neck cancers, and gastrointestinal cancers, whereas it’s mostly breast cancer in women. Alcohol appears to cause more than 100,000 cases of breast cancer every year. Yeah, but is that just among heavy drinkers? No. “All levels of evidence show…a risk relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer, even at low levels of consumption.”

Now, eating a healthy diet may help modulate that risk. Yeah, alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, but “a fiber-rich diet [may have] the opposite effect.” So, eating more whole plant foods may be able to “ease the adverse effects” of alcohol. “Alcohol has been shown to increase sex hormone levels,” like estrogen, which may increase breast cancer risk. But, you see the opposite happen eating fiber-rich foods. “Fiber [appears to] bind estrogen in the colon” and help flush it out of the body. But, even so, there does not appear to be any level of alcohol consumption that is completely safe from a cancer standpoint.

So, that’s why you see commentaries like this in the medical literature, exclamation point and all: the “[c]onsumption of…an addictive carcinogen, cannot be [considered] a healthy lifestyle choice!” “Thus, the final message on [alcohol] should be clear: It is toxic, carcinogenic, [birth defect-causing], and potentially addictive. By arguing otherwise, scientists can give the alcohol lobby and advertisers the opportunity to manipulate the scientific evidence to [place] profits” over public health.

They do this through denying the evidence, distorting the evidence, and trying to distract the public’s attention. “The [alcohol industry, Big Booze,] appears to be engaged in the [same kind of] extensive misrepresentation of [the] evidence” for which Big Tobacco is best known.

Yet, they are able to maintain this illusion of righteousness. Alcohol, tobacco, and junk food companies “increasingly seek to present themselves…as objective providers of health information about their products.” But, “[health information…should come from health authorities, not the 21st century’s most successful drug peddlers.”

“Alcohol industries profit hugely from this disconnect [though] and sometimes even appropriate the cause of cancer prevention in order to promote their carcinogenic product.” Case in point: Mike’s Hard Pink Lemonade. “Join The Fight & Drink Pink” carcinogens, associating “the creation of their pink-ribboned alcohol with the death of one of their employees from breast cancer,” ironically, “contribut[ing] to risk in the name of prevention.” Who, after all, can forget Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “Buckets for the Cure” campaign?

Cancer risk is one of the things the alcohol industry won’t tell you. But, why doesn’t your doctor tell you? There’s relatively little public awareness of the link, and the medical community has largely remained silent. The medical profession may be getting more hip to corporate conflicts of interest in general, but “why are we ignoring the alcohol industry?”

In other words: “Why is alcohol cancer’s best-kept secret?” Maybe it’s because the doctors are drinkers themselves. And so, they want to remain in denial over the whole thing.

Not only do most doctors drink; a significant proportion admit to drinking while on call and report encountering fellow physicians on call while apparently impaired. Even though most doctors feel they have an obligation to tell their patients should such a situation arise, guess how many actually do? “[O]nly 12% reported that they” inform their patients when they’ve been drinking.

“The…industry…has identified the alcohol-causes-cancer message as a considerable threat.” They have a “vested interest in maintaining the status quo of relative ignorance, uncertainty and denial among the general population and their trusted health advisers. “In the face of this, it is time that health professionals set aside any leanings that might stem from their own drinking…and convey unreservedly to their patients and the communities they serve that alcohol-causes-cancer.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Robert Mathews via Unsplash. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

We’ve known about the possible association between the consumption of alcohol and excessive mortality from cancer for more than a hundred years. Though the evidence is accumulating that alcohol drinking is also associated with pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and melanoma, we’re pretty certain that alcohol increases risk of mouth cancer, throat cancer, esophageal cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, voice-box cancer, and breast cancer. Current estimates suggest that alcohol causes about 5.8% of all cancer deaths in these organs worldwide.

Here’s how that breaks down for men and women. In men, alcohol causes mostly head and neck cancers, and gastrointestinal cancers, whereas it’s mostly breast cancer in women. Alcohol appears to cause more than 100,000 cases of breast cancer every year. Yeah, but is that just among heavy drinkers? No. “All levels of evidence show…a risk relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer, even at low levels of consumption.”

Now, eating a healthy diet may help modulate that risk. Yeah, alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, but “a fiber-rich diet [may have] the opposite effect.” So, eating more whole plant foods may be able to “ease the adverse effects” of alcohol. “Alcohol has been shown to increase sex hormone levels,” like estrogen, which may increase breast cancer risk. But, you see the opposite happen eating fiber-rich foods. “Fiber [appears to] bind estrogen in the colon” and help flush it out of the body. But, even so, there does not appear to be any level of alcohol consumption that is completely safe from a cancer standpoint.

So, that’s why you see commentaries like this in the medical literature, exclamation point and all: the “[c]onsumption of…an addictive carcinogen, cannot be [considered] a healthy lifestyle choice!” “Thus, the final message on [alcohol] should be clear: It is toxic, carcinogenic, [birth defect-causing], and potentially addictive. By arguing otherwise, scientists can give the alcohol lobby and advertisers the opportunity to manipulate the scientific evidence to [place] profits” over public health.

They do this through denying the evidence, distorting the evidence, and trying to distract the public’s attention. “The [alcohol industry, Big Booze,] appears to be engaged in the [same kind of] extensive misrepresentation of [the] evidence” for which Big Tobacco is best known.

Yet, they are able to maintain this illusion of righteousness. Alcohol, tobacco, and junk food companies “increasingly seek to present themselves…as objective providers of health information about their products.” But, “[health information…should come from health authorities, not the 21st century’s most successful drug peddlers.”

“Alcohol industries profit hugely from this disconnect [though] and sometimes even appropriate the cause of cancer prevention in order to promote their carcinogenic product.” Case in point: Mike’s Hard Pink Lemonade. “Join The Fight & Drink Pink” carcinogens, associating “the creation of their pink-ribboned alcohol with the death of one of their employees from breast cancer,” ironically, “contribut[ing] to risk in the name of prevention.” Who, after all, can forget Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “Buckets for the Cure” campaign?

Cancer risk is one of the things the alcohol industry won’t tell you. But, why doesn’t your doctor tell you? There’s relatively little public awareness of the link, and the medical community has largely remained silent. The medical profession may be getting more hip to corporate conflicts of interest in general, but “why are we ignoring the alcohol industry?”

In other words: “Why is alcohol cancer’s best-kept secret?” Maybe it’s because the doctors are drinkers themselves. And so, they want to remain in denial over the whole thing.

Not only do most doctors drink; a significant proportion admit to drinking while on call and report encountering fellow physicians on call while apparently impaired. Even though most doctors feel they have an obligation to tell their patients should such a situation arise, guess how many actually do? “[O]nly 12% reported that they” inform their patients when they’ve been drinking.

“The…industry…has identified the alcohol-causes-cancer message as a considerable threat.” They have a “vested interest in maintaining the status quo of relative ignorance, uncertainty and denial among the general population and their trusted health advisers. “In the face of this, it is time that health professionals set aside any leanings that might stem from their own drinking…and convey unreservedly to their patients and the communities they serve that alcohol-causes-cancer.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Robert Mathews via Unsplash. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Doctor's Note

Yeah, but cancer is only killer #2. Killer #1 is heart disease. And so, what about the French paradox? Doesn’t moderate drinking protect against cardiovascular disease? So isn’t it beneficial overall? That’s exactly the question I set out to address in this four-part video series. Stay tuned for:

I explored this topic previously in my videos Breast Cancer & Alcohol: How Much is Safe? and Breast Cancer Risk: Red Wine vs. White Wine.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

151 responses to “Can Alcohol Cause Cancer?

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  1. Dr Gregor,
    You commented in the past about the effect of red wine in the mouth that the red part did not create the chemical associated with cancer. Does this still hold up? I red wine specifically a lower or null risk?
    Thanks for any clarity

    1. Dear Moderator
      Since I cant edit I will clarify.
      I am trying to find the video but at this point I have not been successful. I will place the link if I find it.
      In this video you talked about the biochemistry of red wine in the mouth. This was only true for red wine (and grape juice I think) not white wine. The chemical in the red wine (resveratrol? maybe) prevented the creation of the cancer causing chemical normally associated with alcohol that is created in the mouth when drinking other alcohols.
      I really took this comment on board as I enjoy my organic red with my whole plant (no oil) diet. I need to know if this specific caveat is still considered true, is red wine less/not carcinogenic. Is all of the carcinogenic activity of alcohol because of the chemical reaction that takes place in the mouth or is there more to it & red wine would therefore become a risk factor in other ways further down the in the system?

        1. Hi TEvans,

          I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thank you so much for your question.

          The grapes in the study Dr. Greger referred to reduced aromatase activity by about 3-fold at the highest dose and 2-fold at a more moderate dose. Now this is simply what happens when you drip grape juice onto extracted human tissue placed in a petri dish. To what extent this would occur in the body would be much more difficult to determine. Therefore, it’s hard to evaluate any reduction in risk from drinking red wine. The best evidence we have to go from is from epidemiological studies like the Harvard study Dr. Greger discussed, which shows no protection, but no elevated risk from drinking red wine.

          I hope this helps to answer your question!

          1. Just coincidentally 6 new papers on the Mediterranean Diet are coming out along with Dr. Greger’s videos. They include patients drinking red wine in small to moderate amounts and only with meals. Here’s a link to the press release which links to all 6 papers. I’m curious what Dr. Greger’s response would be to these data since they would be applicable to viewers here who otherwise eat a whole foods plant based diet but might also drink wine.

            https://www.geron.org/press-room/press-releases/2018-press-releases/853-can-a-mediterranean-diet-pattern-slow-aging

      1. The red wine thing is also in his book “How Not To Die.” From memory, it was that alcohol creates a carcinogenic compound when in contact with saliva but this does not occur with red wine compared to other alcohols which is likely, if not obviously, due to the antioxidants in the red wine negating the effect. So I would imagine that this specific issue within the mouth holds true. Don’t know if it would mean it’s overall less carcinogenic.

        I personally would imagine red wine (drank in moderation) would be less carcinogenic than other alcohols. Kind of like how fiber has the opposite effect of alcohol, the antioxidants I IMAGINE help to cushion the blow. So while I rarely drink, when I do I always go with red wine. It would be really cool to learn that it is not carcinogenic overall like other alcohols or at least within a certain amount… that would be nice.

        Have they looked at the differences in different alcohol sources yet? Are some worse than others in this regard?

        1. I think you have found the source I was looking for, it was in the book & not in the vidoes, cool thanks.
          I too would like one safe “vice” or at least something, that did no outright harm. And if they do the test between alcohols I wish they would do it on whole plant vegans, as a study group because of how different we may be biochemically.

      1. Thanks you so much. Yes, the second video may be it. It mentions aromatase. However I remember him going deeper into the chemistry and how it happened in the mouth. I could of course be misremembering ;) or mixing 2 videos.
        thanks again for the links

  2. Okay, but if someone is following an unprocessed food diet, just plants….fruit and veggies and whole grains, beans, no oils,
    B12, D, no junk food at all…………is the risk still existent? I can’t help but wonder if the alcohol is only toxic, in the manner
    you have brought up today, when combined with
    junk food/processed food/cooked meat, products.

    1. b: A healthy whole foods diet should somewhat ameliorate the carcinogenic action of alcohol. However, those who eat healthy and DON’T drink alcohol will have lower cancer rates than those who eat healthy and drink alcohol.

  3. i sometimes use alcohol-based herbal tinctures, having maybe an eyedropper of ethanol/day — do people think this small amount is problematic? (i’ve read that our bodies produce small amounts of alcohol, but not sure.) also, am wondering if putting the drops into a glass of water and letting sit for a few hours if the alcohol would evaporate off. thanks in advance if anyone knows.

    1. Silvertoad,
      I do the same thing. In this case, alcohol is the carrier for extremely beneficial plant compounds. Likewise, glycerine, while less effective as a carrier, has more calories than regular sugar, has no nutrients, and is less sweet than sugar.

      I don’t worry about it, because the plant medicine is so much more important than the small amount of alcohol or the larger amount of glycerine to get the same amount of medicine.

      John S

    2. Hi Silvertoad,

      I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thank you so much for your question!

      One eyedropper worth of ethanol/day would likely not pose any appreciable risk of any condition. After all, ripened fruit even contains very small amounts of alcohol. These are such small doses that it would be impossible to detect any risk associated with it.

      If you are worried, though, perhaps you could find a tincture extracted in vegetable glycerine or apple cider vinegar. They may be harder to find, but there are definitely some out there.

      I hope this helps!

    1. With the junky diet you describe, you don’t need to have alcohol bring your cancer in a take-out package. The food will do it for you.

    2. I wonder the same things. I want to hear about the effects of any particular substance or practice on the practitioners of Whole Plant Diets. I even wish they would not lump in vegetarians and even vegans (since they could be junk food vegans). Adventists studies come the closest but that’s not perfect either.

      But we wont really know till…….
      THEY PUT IT TO THE TEST ;)

  4. My dogs vet was talking about doctors yesterday. He said, “Do you see that poster behind you? For twenty years, I have been telling my dog owners which diets to feed their dogs, based on which health condition and more and more, we are using nutraceuticals, but I can’t go to my doctor and have the same type of treatment.”

    He has liver cancer, and I am sharing the various foods against cancers information, but now I have to throw don’t drink alcohol in the information.

    1. Deb, Plus the vet will tell you how much each and every test and treatment will cost, and work with us to figure out what we can afford to do, what is most effective. Impossible with doctors.

  5. are there any differences in the alcohol concentrations and the cancer relation? approximate values of let’s say beer with 4-6 % wines with 12-16% vs hard liquor of over 40-45% . This video makes me sad because I live in the Italian wine country and I am studying to be a sommelier :-(

    1. Hi Picapica, in today’s video more than one research paper said that there is NO safe level of alcohol as far as cancer risk. So the higher percentage of alcohol the higher the risk of cancer no matter the amount of of alcohol.

      Since you’re studying to be a sommelier, I would highly recommend you watch or re-watch the videos concerning cancer, particularly esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, and all the whole plant foods that prevent cancer such as crucifers and alums. Another thing to consider is that if you drink on a full stomach it both slows the absorption of alcohol (giving your liver more time to detoxify it) and it decreases the amount of alcohol your body needs to process as there are also enzymes that break down alcohol in your stomach. This may not help with stomach cancer much but it’ll most likely lower the risk of melanoma, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer from alcohol mentioned in the video.

      I hope this helps!

      1. wow, thanks for these clarifications, very helpful. In my “nervous” excitement of watching the video, I must have overlooked the information on the alcohol levels. Tonight I have my sommelier class and by the time we get to the tasting part of the lesson, it is almost 11pm, by which time I am tired and hungry! So I need to have some snacks with me! :-)

          1. D.A.,

            Great links! I personally started making sure I was taking Milk Thistle (long time off again on again MT user) after reading the same research from the University of Colorado. They explained their research as:

            Stop STAT1 and STAT3 and you break the chain that leads to COX2 and iNOS – and the growth of lung tumors along with them.

            “This relatively nontoxic substance – a derivative of milk thistle, called silibinin – was able to inhibit the upstream signals that lead to the expression of COX2 and iNOS,” says Alpna Tyagi, PhD, of the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy. Tyagi works in the lab of University of Colorado Cancer Center investigator Rajesh Agarwal, PhD.

            In addition, Tyagi and collaborators compared the effects of silibinin to drugs currently in clinical trials for lung cancer. Would drugs that target other signaling pathways – other linked chains – similarly cut into the production of COX2 and iNOS?

            It turned out that inhibiting the chains of JAK1/2 and MEK in combination and also inhibiting the signaling pathways of EGFR and NF-kB in combination blocked the ability of STAT1 and STAT3 to trap the energy they needed to eventually signal COX2 and iNOS production.

            Compared to these multi-million dollar drugs, naturally-occurring silibinin blocked not only the expression of COX2 and iNOS, but also the migration of existing lung cancer cells.

            “What we showed is that STAT1 and STAT3 may be promising therapeutic targets in the treatment of lung cancer, no matter how you target them,” Tyagi says. “And also that naturally-derived products like silibinin may be as effective as today’s best treatments.”

            ——

            This work was supported by NCI RO1 grant CA113876.

            The link to their article is:

            http://www.coloradocancerblogs.org/milk-thistle-stops-lung-cancer-in-mice/

            If I were a consumer of alcohol or just wanted to guard against cancer, I would take Milk Thistle or its derivitave of Sylimarin or Sylibinin every day… accompanied by turmeric and Vitamin C as these two additions helps the Milk Thistle be more effective.

  6. Interesting video thanks!

    If I may, I’d like to express some ideas about health, diet, and lifestyle in general.

    These ideas extend up to the diet choice dynamics of whole foods and plant foods. This is not a discussion from an ethics point of view. I consider the ethics and science of nutrition and diet separately. That is to say, when I try to convince someone that they should swap the chicken out for beans or that it’s okay for them to keep those slices of cheese in the dish, I’m not doing so out of ethics and care for animal welfare, but out of knowledge in natural science.

    I can appreciate the simple and well-supported ideas that reducing one’s diet to purely whole plant foods seems to be the best physiologically speaking (not counting psychological cravings and desires). And, I admire and engage in the discipline and retraining that is demanded of such a dietary lifestyle shift.

    However, I find there to be an issue in trying to economically manifest these ideas in the general public and food system infrastructure. It’s not a secret that there is immense amount of money and dare I say, psychological currency in the way things currently are: meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, sugar, oil, salt.

    In terms of preparation techniques:

    – For example, could we do something to get the heavy metals out of sea food? Soak meats to get the sodium out, maybe using a flavor enhancing marinade?

    – How do maillard reactions of say frying garlic change the health dynamics of a dish? Is it always best to cook with water based techniques? And if so by how much?

    That is the difficult part isn’t it? To quantify the effects. What do we have, is it a small window to look into the arena of truth using these studies of particular conditions?

    And this can extend deeper into the conclusions from other healthy lifestyle choices. For example, it may be true that 60 minutes of brisk walking every day is healthier than 40 minutes of brisk walking three times a week, but by how much? We are always battling with managing our time well and thus quantifying various lifestyle decisions as best we can would help with making the decisions on a daily basis. Surely, as a contrasting example, the vitamin b12 intake for someone abstaining completely from animal products is a type of very critical and impactful decision (as far as I know from what I’ve read and studied).

    Alcohol causes cancer
    Tobacco causes cancer

    Taken generally these statements give the same information. So I got to thinking why alcohol didn’t get the same treatment as tobacco did in our society. I figured it’s possible that given more time, the labeling and general dialogue surrounding the two items might converge. But I also considered that the mechanisms are such that tobacco is just an order of magnitude or more worse than alcohol (assuming reasonable dosing schedules which would likely vary across individuals).

    Here is an excerpt from a site that I had searched out:

    The question asked on researchgate.net was
    “Should we not stigmatise alcohol in the same way as we do tobacco?”

    One person’s response was thus:

    “It may be very “convenient” to campaign against tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking indiscriminately but not very correct scientifically. Different noxae with different toxicodynamics, different defense mechanisms, different dose-response relationships. While the carcinogenic and many other risks of smoking are of no-threshold kind, there is a lot of epidemiological studies (mine included) demonstrating that only overindulgence in drinking is a provable risk factor. Moreover, it is well known that within a certain range of low alcohol consumption not only cancer but some other health risks as well are lower as compared with those for teetotalers.

    Yes, there may be (and evidently is) statistical correlation between smoking and drinking, but there are a lot of low-to-moderate drinkers who has never smoked or dropped smoking and quite a lot of heavy smokers who are not heavy drinkers. To ban anything is hardly possible in the modern society, and to explain why people should drop these habits researchers should be honest. Otherwise some knowledgeable journalist will pinpoint your incompetence, and your noble crusade will fail.”

    In summary, I am wondering how to reconcile the leading edge nutrition data with the deeply established culinary arts and mainstream diet trends. The red-yellow-green traffic light system seems to provide a good clue where to start. Seems like cutting out the red light items more sharply while still incorporating some yellow light items would be a good start. Perhaps in the future we may see wider range systems with possibly 5+ levels of rank.

    I find it challenging, with my relative inexperience in working with statistics and biology, to tease out precise conclusions from published studies. Further, the detailed mechanisms at play are largely foreign to me because I am not well-trained in any of biology, chemistry or biochemistry. Thus I greatly appreciate and admire experts such as Dr. Greger that work in this area. Thanks again.

  7. Longest Living People Drink Alcohol:
    Blue Zones – https://www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/ Reverse Engineering Longevity By Dan Buettner Of his 9 steps note number 6. Wine @ 5
    People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all weekend and have 14 drinks on Saturday.
    If the longest living people drink alcohol along with the other 8 steps perhaps it’s not as bad as it seems?

    1. Right. It’s possible that even if alcohol use increases the risk of cancer, it is offset by cardiovascular benefits. Do we know? Do moderate users have lower mortality?

      1. And cancer is just one possible cause of alcohol-related mortality. There are lots of others, like accidents….and causing the deaths of others through drunk driving or something like that.

        I’m not trying to justify my own drinking–I have fewer than 10 alcoholic drinks per year at occasional social events. I could take it or leave it. But I am definitely curious about overall mortality.

        1. Thanks for the link but I thought that these sorts of associations have been explained by inadequate controlling for confounding variables. there are a number of articles in the professional journals about this but hyere are the conclusions from one:

          “Conclusions Beneficial associations between low intensity alcohol consumption and all cause mortality may in part be attributable to inappropriate selection of a referent group and weak adjustment for confounders. Compared with never drinkers, age stratified analyses suggest that beneficial dose-response relations between alcohol consumption and all cause mortality may be largely specific to women drinkers aged 65 years or more, with little to no protection present in other age-sex groups. These protective associations may, however, be explained by the effect of selection biases across age-sex strata.”
          https://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h384

      2. I am not sure that it works that way. No community is “perfect” and not everything people do in such communties is nevessarily health-promoting. Note that the non-drinking 7th Day Adventists are supposedly the longest living of all Blue Zone communities.

        They probably also smoke in the Blue Zones too. That would no more prove that smoking is harmless than the fact that people drink alcohol there proves that drinking alcohol is harmless. Perhaps they achieve long healthy lives despite the alcohol/tobacco.

        I don’t like it anymore than anyone else because I used to enjoy red wine. In fact, if I am going to be completely honest, I still do on special occasions like New Year, Christmas, birthday etc. However, the evidence seems pretty clear that if we want to drink red wine, then it should be de-alcoholised red wine. But who does that? Most people just want the alcohol “buzz”

        That said, while alcohol consumption is a risk, so is living in the inner city, driving a car, crossing the road and cooking. If we want to do these things, let’s do it with our eyes open and accept that we are engaging in risky behaviour instead of trying to rationalise that behaviour.. And yes, if that’s our choice, minimise the risk by drinking the way dan Buettner suggests. But we may be kidding ourselves if we think that doing so is actually “healthy”.

        1. I agree. If having a glass of wine when you come home helps take the edge off, isn’t that better than dealing with angst and a heart attack? How much cancer are you exposed to when you buy a new car? How much plastic do you have in your house? Did you get new carpeting?
          What are you washing your hair with? What’s in your anti-per spirant? How far do you keep your cell phone from your head while you are using it? Do you wear a filtered mask when you leave the house? etc. etc. etc……………

      3. Jennifer,
        Thanks for your question. Since the etiology (mechanism of causation) of cancer is different from the etiology of cardiovascular disease, it does not offset each other. A person who consumes one to two drinks a day is just more likely to die from cancer instead of cardiovascular disease (all other things being equal). Here is a study on drinking wine that you may find interesting. It does appear that the components in red wine has protective effects that may help offset some of the toxic effects of the alcohol. https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/wine/

      4. Jennifer,
        Thanks for your comments and questions. Since the etiology (mechanism of cause) of cancer is different from the etiology of cardiovascular disease, it does not offset each other. It just means that a person who has a couple of drinks daily is more likely to die from cancer instead of heart disease (all other things being equal). You may find this link interesting regarding red wine. It does appear to have some protective components to partially offset the toxic effects of the alcohol. againsthttps://nutritionfacts.org/topics/wine/

    2. Neil Wilson:

      Alcohol produces mellowing out or passing out. Many people who do not drink at all instead eat comfort foods: cake, candy, twinkles, potato chips etc. So they would have higher cancer rates.

    3. I good point and I believe the social element associated with alcohol consumption would actually offset some of the health risks. People with rich social support systems tend to live longer. See Howard Friedman’s Longevity project for one of the longitudinal studies on the link between our social relationships and health.

  8. There comments are hilarious. “OK, but…”.

    How about just don’t drink alcohol? Seems to be too difficult for many, begging the question- do you have to be a full blown alcoholic to have an addictive relationship with this substance?

    1. Some people just enjoy it because of the way it makes them feel and that’s ok, SOMETIMES. Grateful for doctor Greger as always for getting the truth out there and I really hope that this profound news gets to the public and not just those who take it upon ourselves to learn. But let’s not get too judge-y here just because some people enjoy a glass of wine.

  9. Alcohol also lowers B1 (to deficiency levels) with all kind of cascading problems like low energy, unhealthy skin, no mental focus, etc. Sources are yeast, whole grains, sunflower seeds, etc. But it is destroyed by cooking like C.

    1. If you take a B supplement in a tablet form, remember that tablets are compacted in heat. Therefore, the B vitamins are almost destroyed in the process. It would be better in a vegan capsule.

  10. And there was this article this month in the NYT:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/health/nih-alcohol-study-liquor-industry.html
    Federal Agency Courted Alcohol Industry to Fund Study on Benefits of Moderate Drinking

    “Scientists and National Institute of Health officials waged a
    concerted campaign to obtain funding from the alcohol industry
    for research that may enshrine alcohol as a part of a healthy diet.

    “Though excessive drinking is harmful and problem drinking is on the rise in the United States, many observational studies have found that moderate drinkers outlive abstainers and have less heart disease.

    These studies don’t prove that moderate drinking is the reason these people live longer, however. The new trial, called the Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health Trial (M.A.C.H.), is intended to answer that question.

    In January, Dr. Mukamal and his colleagues started recruiting volunteers ages 50 and older who are at high risk for heart disease; eventually there are to be 7,800 participants at 16 sites worldwide. Half will be told to abstain from alcohol. The rest, including both men and women, will be told to have one serving of alcohol a day.

    No other long-term trial has ever asked participants to drink, much less drink every day. Scientists will track the two groups for six years on average to see whether daily drinkers have fewer heart attacks and strokes, and lower odds of diabetes and death.

    The research will attempt to track the risks of drinking, but critics say it may not fully capture the harms. For one thing, the study will be too short to detect an increase in cancers linked to alcohol consumption, which may take decades to develop.”

    1. I came to post the same article. It’s really unfortunate. So much conflict of interest but especially since it’s an RCT, the results will be trumpeted as the bottom line, yet with how the study was set up, you and I already know what the results will show.

  11. As a professor of beer, yes I teach beer and brewing at UNLV, I wonder if the delivery of the alcohol is part of the issue. Beer and wine are much different than distilled alcohol in both delivery and composition of by-products.

    This is the conclusion of the Ceres Study in 2008.
    Summary and Conclusion
    This Ceres Forum reviewed the science concerning
    moderate beer and alcohol consumption and identified
    further research needs. The current evidence suggests
    that moderate drinking of beer or other alcoholic
    beverages on a daily basis is linked to health benefits;
    excessive and/or binge drinking is always harmful.
    Because of possible misinterpretation and distortion of
    this message, health professionals such as dietitians and
    physicians, scientists, consumer groups, and even
    government officials are concerned about communicating
    the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption to the
    public. Conferences such as the Ceres Forum can help
    alleviate this problem by emphasizing the scientific
    evidence and discussing methods for effectively
    communicating this information to the public.

    Beer to Your Health!: Moderate Beer Consumption and Health
    by Storey, Maureen; Forshee, Richard; Weaver, Gary
    Nutrition Today, 05/2008, Volume 43, Issue 3

    I will find more newer articles, but I realize most here don’t have direct access to the journals.

    I am not disputing the above, but am questioning it.

    1. And here is another study showing other findings.


      Although alcohol consumption is a two-sided coin, moderate alcohol consumption especially of
      wine has demonstrated the provision of a protective role for the cardiovascular system and in some
      types of cancer. Most medical professionals as well as the American Heart Association agree that
      heavy drinkers or alcohol abstainers should not be encouraged to drink wine for health reasons. Wine
      consumption should not replace a healthy lifestyle. However, light-to-moderate wine drinkers, without
      medical complications, may be assured that their wine consumption is a healthy habit


      Arranz, S., Chiva-Blanch, G., Valderas-Martínez, P., Medina-Remón, A., Lamuela-Raventós, R. M., & Estruch, R. (2012). Wine, beer, alcohol and polyphenols on cardiovascular disease and cancer. Nutrients, 4(7), 759-781. 10.3390/nu4070759

      1. I feel that since there are so many conflicting papers Dr. Greger has more videos coming on this issue to address the discrepancy like he’s done for other topics where there is disagreement. I also agree with your points on the difference between the spirits. Even between wine and beer. Craft beer anyway is hops, malts, water, and yeast. That’s it. Even wine has a lot of chemicals added during the fining process. I’m afraid we’ll never have a good study to answer this question though.

        1. Kevin, until I read your comment above, “Even wine has a lot of chemicals added during the fining process,” I’d never thought about what is added to wine. Here’s one reference (of many); it’s eye-opening. And the chemicals aren’t just added to the fining process, but at several stages of wine production. http://winefolly.com/review/wine-additives/ Alcoholic beverages don’t have to list their ingredients, but they should.

          1. I honestly never thought about it either until I went vegan and learned that a lot of wines aren’t vegan. They use bone marrow and other crazy things in the fining process. Then when I took a brewery tour locally they emphasized that their beer has four ingredients only. Same can’t be said for macro brewery beer. Lots of chemicals. I don’t want to explain away the findings in the studies Dr. Greger references here but I do wonder if the type of spirit matters. There must be a big difference from a craft beer at 6% alcohol made from hops, malts, water, and yeast and 80 proof liquor taken as a shot.

    2. John, why does beer have to contain alcohol? I personally still wouldn’t drink it because of the hops (purportedly being estrogenic?)

      But I get it that many people like the taste of beer, so if it is for the taste and not the buzz, why not alcohol free?… perhaps because alcohol helps us loosen up and become more sociable? If so, why not just add a tiny amount of MDMA for effect? ‘-)

      Actually, rather than alcohol free, perhaps a very low amount. I take liquid herbals and often add vanilla (containing alcohol) to my various non-alcoholic drinks. I buy the herbals that are preserved in alcohol because, alcohol being a solvent, I feel helps me to absorb the nutrients better.

      But I only get probably a few drops of pure alcohol. I’ll even add a few drops of DMSO to something I want to be absorbed… like my Niacin powder dissolved into distilled water for doing a complete body spray for skin health.

      The distilled water is itself a solvent but I think the DMSO in the amount of a few drops in a quart of mixture is not over-kill.

        1. Waste of time? More like a conservation of time.

          Waste of money? No, a waste of money is money spent trying to recover from ill health. ‘-)

  12. Further to my comment above “Longest Living People Drink Alcohol”
    Evidence based – NutrtionFacts.org (Dr. Gregor) is big on presenting not opinion which could be biased but facts that research can duplicate for corroborate. Also look for the hidden agenda – who is saying it, do they have a dog in the race?
    I was hoping for a comment by NutitionFacts.org staff or a reader on the “Blue Zones” statement that “Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers.” – that was quote was taken from https://www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/ point 6.
    I saw the TED talk by Dan Buettner this week, checked out the books website and then this video on alcohol came along.
    Any thoughts on his comment “Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers.” in his research?
    Thanks

    1. “Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers.” means not Vodka or Whisky but they only drank concord red wine which has some antioxidants of what is still left after all the processing of the grapes. So NOT a good EXCUSE to continue to get drunk!

    2. This claim is based on various observational studies. However, there are criticisms that such observations are confounded by other factors. For exmple, non-driners included people who have had to give up drinking because of alcohol related probems. They would naturally be expected to have poor health and greater mortality risk.

      I posted an extract from a study published in the BMJ which looked at this issue in detail and pretty much concluded that supposed protective effects of light/moderate drinking are spurious. You could also look at this Medscape article from four years ago

      https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/824237

    1. She is not very convincing.

      She also seems to think that being overweight is protective in older people because overweight older people live longer than people who aren’t overweight. However this doesn’t take account of the fact that in the US about 70% of older adults are obese or overweight. In other words, it is “normal” to be overweight in the US.
      https://www.statista.com/statistics/726665/overweight-and-obesity-among-seniors-united-states/

      Why are some older people in the US not overweight then? And why do those seem to die younger on average? Well, we know that older people tend to be sicker than younger people. The rates of many chronic diseases rise with age. These disease include cancer, Alzheimer’s, viral infections, bowel diseases, Parkinson’s, thyroid problems and even undiagnosed diabetes. These all commonly cause weight loss. Lower weight as a marker for (chronic) disease seems a more probable explanation for such an association rather than some mysterious, unknown factor that is absent in younger people.
      https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003107.htm
      https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20060911/weight-loss-tied-to-early-alzheimers#1

      in the light of this, it seems incredible that a professional researcher and academic would simplistically assume causality from an association between not being overweight in older adults and the risk of increased mortality. Given such reported remarks, I wouldn’t give a great deal of weight (pardon the pun) to her opinions about alsohol consumtion and mortality either.

  13. how about alcohol-mouthwash which is 24%+ alcohol like Listerine(tm)? as for men it is mainly mouth and throat cancers and mouthwash touches it twice a day?

    1. I seem to recall at least one study which showed that people using alsohol based mouthwashes had higher rates of cancer.
      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/4223380/Mouthwash-can-cause-oral-cancer.html

      Although some other studies found no association.
      “Mouthwash-and-Oral-Cancer-Risk-Quantitative-Meta-analysis-of-Epidemiologic-Studies” (The actual link won’t post here)

      Dr Greger did a video on the best mouthwash a while ago.
      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/whats-the-best-mouthwash/

    2. Because alcohol creates a carcinogenic compound when in contact with saliva (with the exception of red wine due to antioxidants), I can’t imagine that rinsing the mouth out with it would be healthy for the mouth so I personally would not. I also wouldn’t do so because I’ve read where it can kill the good bacteria in our mouths. I’ve personally concluded that disinfecting the mouth with alcohol doesn’t create a healthy mouth.

    1. I seem to recall an artice which reported that some of them smoke too. Smoking/drinking in Blue Zone communities wouldn’t necessarily trump the boatloads of contrary evidence thatbthese things are harmful..

  14. So, does everyone who drinks alcohol get cancer. No, they don’t. It would be interesting to see what percentage of alcohol drinkers get cancer and then deducting from that the percentage of people who get cancer whether they drink or not as some of those drinking alcohol might have got cancer even if they were abstainers.

  15. This is such a tough call (whether to quit alcohol or not) for me especially with the Blue Zone research somewhat in conflict. I love beer although rarely have more than one in a sitting these days.It’s such a nice thing to look forward to on a weekend, vacation, after a long bike ride, etc.

  16. Hooray!

    It’s refreshing to hear someone so definitively and
    straightforward say Alcohol causes cancer. BTW:
    I’ve noticed for the last two years or so that health
    professionals always ask me if I drink. Since the
    answer is no, I don’t get to hear what lecture I might
    get if I said yes.

  17. I believe that alcohol can be fermented in the intestines by the action of microbes/yeast on sugar. If the body produces alcohol then surely the amount that is dangerous to a person’s health must be considered in any overview.

  18. Wow. Kind of alarming how gravely misinformed society is about health and nutrition when put into perspective… Breast cancer awareness is a pretty big thing now, what with all the pink ribbons and such, yet no one that I’m aware of has ever heard of the connection between alcohol and breast cancer (including myself), meanwhile I think most women drink and most of my peers drink every weekend often heavily. But ask around and the majority of people out there have heard that they should avoid soy because of its link to breast cancer and other things when the opposite is actually true. I’d like to thank internet bloggers.

  19. Is March of Dimes warning about how drinking alcohol causes birth defects? Is anyone looking at male alcohol consumption in relation to birth defects? No one deserves to go through life handicapped in any way because of the ignorance of one or both parents. This message has been suppressed for way too long. Thank you Dr. Gregor for your courage to be a whistle blower. May God bless you.

  20. Seems like a very definitive statement ” alcohol causes cancer ” so should everyone who drinks alcohol expect to get cancer?

    1. Gabby, of course not. For ex., not every smoker gets lung cancer. Same with drinking. According to this research, drinking greatly increases your chances of getting certain cancers. It doesn’t guarantee it.

    2. No, it just raises their risk. Although from my understanding, if people continue on a SAD diet and don’t die of other causes like heart disease and so on, they’ll all eventually get cancer. Most just die before they’re diagnosed. Dreary I know, but not hopeless. We just need to change our diets!

  21. I once told my doctor that I was probably drinking too much scotch. “That is a problem”, he said. “You should be drinking bourbon”. And I don’t think he was kidding!

  22. I admittedly like beer and wine as much as the next guy/gal, but I must admit I am a little indifferent on the science here. Even the meta analysis concludes more research is necessary:

    “Conversely, heavy drinking has been associated with liver disease; cardiovascular disease; disorders of the digestive tract; and illness or death from alcohol-related injuries, motor vehicle crashes, and violence. Another group of disorders that has been linked to drinking is cancer, particularly cancers of the upper airway and digestive tract (e.g., mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus). Although alcohol has not been shown to cause cancer (i.e., be carcinogenic) in animal studies, strong epidemiological evidence indicates that consumption of alcoholic beverages increases the risk of those cancers.”

    My issue with the conclusions reached so far is the lack of animal studies, which is something you’d rarely hear me say. I just question how our understanding of the effects of alcohol can be so polarizing, and how the light, moderate, and heavy drinker status are so arbitrary. I understand each person—due to a multitude of factors (weight, muscle and fat mass, height, gender, etc.)—may be impacted differently, but I feel there should be more conclusive evidence at this point (like there is with red and processed meats).

    1. The meta-analysis concludes that the RR of liver cancer in women is 9.15 for 100g/day or more, but the male risk is less than 2 with the same volume of consumption? That seems absolutely impossible due to a simple difference in gender. I think my biggest problem with the studies in general is the lack of accurate data and controls, as Dr. Gregor so often emphasizes the importance of. What one consumes before, between, during, and after alcohol consumption must have a tremendous effect on the actual relative risk, and that is not really addressed. Fiber modulation to adverse effects of alcohol consumption is broached, but further analysis on genetic influence, conclusive animal studies, and more in-depth human studies are definitely warranted, as well as many other considerations. I hope additional studies are generated outside of industry influence, and with greater control.

      1. Blaice, first women aren’t men, have different biology, and are known to metabolize alcohol much less efficiently than men.
        It’s why men are told 2 drinks per day ok, women only one. Not because of relative size, but because of biology.
        Women also have a very different immune system, why they have a far greater rate of auto-immune disease.

        And animal studies are ridiculous! They would prove absolutely nothing!
        Over the years I’ve seen so many animal studies show results totally different than similar studies in humans.
        Why subject some poor caged creatures to such useless so-called studies!

      2. Hi Blaice,

        I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thank you so much for your question.

        Women tend to metabolize and detoxify alcohol at a slower rate than men. This is because they have lower levels of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme responsible for detoxifying alcohol into a less harmful substance in our body. Therefore, it could be realistic that the risk of alcohol cancer is greater in women than men for the same amount of alcohol. Perhaps this is not the entire explanation for the difference in risk, but it almost certainly would explain a good portion of it.

        When you see studies with an RR (relative risk) or HR (hazard ratio), this means that they are longitudinal, observational studies. These are studies that follow people for long periods of times (a few years to even a couple decades) and track 2 things: their exposure to something (in this case, alcohol) and the development of a condition (in this case, liver cancer). These studies do not have controls. The only way to really have a control group is to do an intervention study, but it would not be ethical to expose a certain group to alcohol, especially over a long enough period of time to cause liver cancer. Therefore, we will likely never have a randomized controlled trial on the effects of alcohol on liver cancer.

        I hope this helps!

        1. Hi Cody, actually there’s an ongoing interventional trial right now examining the effect of alcohol on health outcomes over many years.
          Unfortunately, for multiple reasons, it is funded by the alcohol industry despite being an NIH trial. This is disappointing because the outcomes will likely make a lot of news and will be seen as the gold standard, despite the dubious funding. Here is an article on it.

          https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/health/nih-alcohol-study-liquor-industry.html

    2. Animal studies? To throw in a pun here, are you drunk?…. Here’s what an animal study on the effects of alcohol consumption by humans would do (it sounds stupid even putting into words): 1) torture animals by what would be considered medical torture if applied to humans 2) waste money 3) waste time 4) neither prove nor disprove anything. What horrific nonsense. And for that matter, Scruffy should be force-fed vodka and have his parts all cut open so Joe can feel good about his wine? Gross. Ironically, I think there’d be plenty of human volunteers for further studies…. free drinks and what not.

    3. Blaice

      It think it is incorrect to say that there is a lack of animal studies on alcohol and cancer. There is in fact a considerable number of such studies. They are discussed in some detail (78 pages) in the World Health Organization’s IARC report on alcohol and cancer.
      http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol96/mono96-6C.pdf

      It is also worth reiterating that the World Health Organization’s Internatational Agency for Research on Cancer throroughly investigated the scientific on this topic. For convenience, the conlusions are copy/pasted here:

      “6.1 Carcinogenicity in humans

      There is sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of alcoholic beverages. The occurrence of malignant tumours of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and female breast is causally related to the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

      There is evidence suggesting lack of carcinogenicity in humans for alcoholic beverages and cancer of the kidney and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

      There is substantial mechanistic evidence in humans who are deficient in aldehyde dehydrogenase that acetaldehyde derived from the metabolism of ethanol in alcoholic beverages contributes to the causation of malignant oesophageal tumours.

      6.2 Carcinogenicity in experimental animals

      There is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of ethanol.

      There is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of acetaldehyde.

      Overall evaluation

      Alcoholic beverages are carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).
      Ethanol in alcoholic beverages is carcinogenic to humans (Group 1)”

      http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol96/mono96-6F.pdf

      You can read the full report here.
      http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol96/index.php

  23. HELLO. I’ll freely admit it: I’m a drinker. I have a lot of low-lying anxiety (bipolar tendencies but not full bipolar), and I refuse to take meds! But I do drink 3 drinks a day, every single day. They are beer or wine, no hard liquor. AND, they are way spread out… several hours between them. AND, I nurse each drink very slowly. At the end of a drink, the first part is already processed and gone. SO: while I do have an elevated blood-etoh level x3 per day, it’s never very high. In my opinion, this is less damaging than, say, the 3 drinks all at once. It’s a frequency-vs-intensity question. Studies with several recreational drugs have shown that intensity is more damaging than frequency, and I’m assuming that etoh (alcohol) would be the same. And yet, try as I might, I can find no corroboration of this re etoh.

    ALSO: I’ve heard that both B1 and NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) are very helpful in mitigating any damage from etoh. I do take these, in addition to a very intense, well-researched and constantly tweaked regimen of amino acids, immune boosters, antioxidants, herbs, etc. etc. I study this stuff all the time. I also speed-walk 3 miles a day, do lots of physical chores, eat a maniacally healthy diet (nothing processed, mainly fruits/veg/legumes and some whole grains, no BPA, no meat, no white food…) I follow all Dr. Greger’s advice! Except for the booze. I tot up the stats on each thing… this will help me live 17% longer, that will add 10% to my life; the other will add 23%… In short, if I added up all the “beneficial” stats, I should live to around 180!

    AND BTW, why does nobody ever do an article on how the various “longevity statistics” add to or cancel each other out? Like, is alcohol so dangerous that it cancels out the benefits of something else? Are all “stats” (various study results) created equal… or not?!

    Lastly, even though I drink 3 drinks a day (and have done so all my life; in fact years ago I drank even more)… I am, at 70 yo, an expert skier who only skis off-piste in the worst terrain! I take no Rx drugs, have no medical concerns, and do a NY Times Sunday Xword every morning in about 45 min. (I have a bunch saved up from when they were too hard to do!). Having been a parachutist and rock climber before skiing, I have broken at least 40 bones in my body and have pins and plates all over the place; I’ve broken each knee, both legs twice, and lots and lots of smaller bones. BUT, I just keep getting better, not worse, and the knee pain I used to have has now resolved. Not bad, eh!

    SO I ASK YOU: Should I really be worried about those 3 drinks a day? (which of course is 3 times what everyone advises!) It does worry me, but unless I encounter some terribly damaging info — moreso than even this article — I’m sure I will continue the practice unabated. I do so love a very hoppy IPA (or 2) and then some nice red Cab late in the evening!

    If anybody has any insights, could you please let me know? I’ll save this and check back. Thanks!

    1. Cindy: Glad to hear you are healthy and happy. But from an evidence perspective, your sample size of 1 is merely an anecdote, and proves absolutely nothing. One can always find exceptional people who smoke and drink and live to 100. But that doesn’t prove that drinking and smoking will be healthy for most people.

    2. Cindy, I have severe OCD (but it’s under control) and I too do not take meds. Luckily cognitive therapy can actually change brain chemistry for those with OCD but it never goes completely away which is to say there is always a potential for it to flare up. The things I’ve found really helpful for dealing with anxiety have been green tea consumption (see Dr. Greger’s video on Alpha waves and green tea: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dietary-brain-wave-alteration/), valerian root (two will put you to sleep, one can help significantly with anxiety but may possibly make you a touch sleepy but even so it’s worth it! and I’m going by the dosage of the Solaray brand veg caps), cacao consumption, and I’ve also had significant reduction in anxiety from lavender essential oil aromatherapy and small amounts of application but mostly for the aromatherapy – not sure if it actually got into my blood (Dr. Greger actually has a video on that somewhere here as well). I also find that regular exercise helps a lot as well as a whole foods plants based diet which is kind of a no brainer.

      Even if you choose to continue to have drinks everyday because you feel the benefits outweigh the risks, maybe by trying other things you could limit your consumption without increasing anxiety levels. Of course I’m not saying this to try to sway you to do so, but I just thought the info could possibly be useful because I understand too well how horrible and even crippling anxiety can be.

      I also would like to quickly note that based on my understanding, alcohol can effect our blood sugar levels and from what I’ve been taught, actually cause depression after drinking.

    3. I’m 69 years and 49 months of age and don’t think I’ve ever had a broken bone. (Got beat up pretty badly some 50 odd years ago and may have had something cracked in my face, but can’t be sure… possibly a broken toe but that would probably only been cracked as well.) We didn’t go to doctors unless we were really ill or severely injured. ‘-)

      Also used up my allotment of drinking about 30+ years ago. I think I was fortunate in part of that allotment that I consumed bock beer, which being rather robust also had a lot of the “mother” from the bottom of the vat, or so I was told.

      Alcohol notwithstanding, drinks were probably safer to drink than some of the water back then. Not sure if the water is very much safer now.

      Truth be told, I never really “enjoyed” drinking… or smoking either but I did both of those because, well, that’s what all the cool people did and those were the ones I hung out with most. When I spent time with non-drinkers, I didn’t drink. I never drank at home and certainly never alone. It was always in a social setting.

      But that is just my story. If the evidence presented gives you pause to reconsider, then act accordingly. But it just may be that you are among that group of people who can live long without being affected by something that others may easily fall victim to. That is, you may be another Jeane Louise Calment who lived to 122 and drank some wine daily IIRC, and ate dark chocolate regularly as well.

      She obviously had some genetic trait (maybe an a-Klotho gene in the proper distribution?) that afforded her protection. Perhaps you have something similar.

      Of all the things you listed, the one I’m most impressed with is doing the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle. Years ago I used to do crosswords but when I quit buying newsprint I stopped, but crosswords require mental aptitude so you obviously have your wits about you.

      I would understand if you continue doing the things you do… except for breaking the bones. If I were you I would stop that. ‘-)

    4. To be honest, your single riskiest practice is probably “skis off-piste in the worst terrain!”

      But yes, of course drinking is a risk. Who knows how much in your case though?

      For example, a Norwegian study of teetotallers found ” The standardized incidence ratio (SIR) for all cancer sites was 74 [95% confidence interval (CI), 64-80] for men and 72 (95% CI, 61-84) for women. For possible alcohol-associated cancers, such as cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, liver, and larynx, the SIR was 43 (95% CI, 17-88) for both sexes combined. ”
      http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/2/2/93.long

      That sounds to me like teetotallers enjoy a pretty hefty drop in cancer risk (and I do drink alcohol occasionally)

    5. All available evidence shows that if you keep ingesting alcohol, you’ll increase your risk of premature death and disease. I used to enjoy a few beers once in a while too, so I was not happy to hear the evidence. I don’t drink anymore.

      Dr. Ben

  24. Interesting. But I wonder how this data can be compared to Dr. Campbell’s studies (discussed in THE CHINA STUDY) of how the development and growth of cancer due to a high-level carcinogen could be virtually turned on and off with the presence or absence of an animal protein in the diet (casein was used, if I’m recalling correctly).

    Also there was a recent study out of the University of California, admittedly observational, about how overall longevity was better for moderate drinkers, compared to non-drinkers. Of course, this doesn’t show causation. For instance, it could be the folks in ill-health couldn’t drink or that some drinkers didn’t live to the age where the researchers began to follow people.

    It would be nice if all the studies — cancer, longevity, cardiovascular, cognitive, etc. — were put together.

  25. Dear Dr Gregor – we love you site. However, I don’t understand what’s the point in quoting specific diseases (like cancer) and not talking about overall mortality rates (since that’s our goal – no?).

    Here’s a huge study that shows that moderate drinking lowers mortality rates (even compared to not drinking at all).

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6110820

    I’ve seen the same stuff with some of the vegan materials – the fact that meat causes cancer does not mean that you are more likely to die if you consume it (at least I couldn’t find a large quoted study that states that).

    Thanks again for the work that you are doing!

    1. But you ARE more likely to die younger if you consume meat for a plethora of reasons whereas the longest lived are those on or near a 100% plant based diet.
      There’s a pretty big point to this information. I’m no expert here, but I do believe that most who get cancer do eventually die from cancer, plus the suffering is horrible. This is the first time I’ve ever heard that alcohol is linked to 100 THOUSAND breast cancer cases per year! That is horrifying and astounding and pathetic that this info isn’t out there. There’s never a lack of point in getting relevant information out there and I would consider this to be extremely relevant.

    2. If you read the doctor’s note you will see that dr Greger will address the question of overall risk later in the four part video series.

      BTW the study you linked is from 1981!

      A 2016 analysis (conveniently listed after your study’s abstract under “similar studies” in pubmed) found that most alcohol studies are fundamentally flawed because the “abstainer” group includes people who don’t or can’t drink for health reasons (eg history of excessive drinking). When adjusted for this bias, the alleged benefit from moderate drinking disappears.

      1. Well after having a couple of glasses of wine tonight and eating a plant-based dinner and following it up with a decadent chocolate dessert after listening to a cardiologist talk about putting a life vest on people that will shrock them if their heart stops, I feel much better! Seriously, alcohol is probably good for people but we all pick our poison’s! Dr. Gregory says he has a good dental plan so he partakes of some sweet desserts sometimes :-) know where you’re going in the afterlife! Then none of it matters :-)

    3. Regarding meat and mortality, the 7th Day Adventist mortality study may be worth niting

      “CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:
      Vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality and with some reductions in cause-specific mortality. Results appeared to be more robust in males. These favorable associations should be considered carefully by those offering dietary guidance.”
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23836264

      As for moderate drinking, the apparent protective effect (seen in observational studies) has been attributed to inappropriate selection of referent groups and inadequate controlling of confounding variables. In any case, it is universally acknowledged that observational studies are a weaker form of evidence than experimental studies. You might be interestied to read the World Health Organization IARC report on the carcinogenity of alcohol. I understand that this below is the latest update

      http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol100E/mono100E-11.pdf

  26. OFF TOPIC: The current issue of the online Berkeley Wellness Letter describes a new hypothesis on the/a underlying cause of Alzheimer’s being the lack of adequate glucose getting through the blood-brain barrier in older people and the role of ketones produced by fasting and FIBER that can serve as an alternative/supplemental fuel for the brain. See:http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-mind/memory/article/what-causes-alzheimers-disease-new-explanation?s=EFA_180324_AA1&st=email&ap=ed&utm_source=Berkeley+Wellness&utm_campaign=7579c5c50a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_03_22&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3ddd6463e7-7579c5c50a-88538809

    1. Thanks for the link. Very interesting rguments especially

      “Another situation in which the body can produce ketones is when it’s being fed a high-fiber diet. For a long time, scientists thought that the main role of dietary fiber was to increase fecal bulk, help with regularity, and decrease the risk of colon cancer. But we have also learned that the microorganisms that normally live in our large intestine can ferment dietary fiber into certain short-chain fatty acids that become ketones after they are absorbed into the body. Alzheimer’s-modeling research in dogs has shown that putting them on a high-fiber diet improved cognition when compared to the same types of dogs fed a low-fiber diet, which provides support for the ketone hypothesis.

      Population studies also support this concept, with evidence showing that cultures that eat higher-fiber diets have a very low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. More recent research has reported that groups who shift over to a Mediterranean-type diet, which is typically higher in fiber than the typical U.S. diet, tend to experience a beneficial effect on cognition.”

      However, reporting the effect of fibre consumotion on ketone production may well cause apoplexy in keto diet enthusiasts.

    2. Thanks for the link. Interesting hypothesis. Lots of good stuff about Alzheimer’s Disease coming out lately, like the idea that ibuprofen taken daily can prevent the disease. (Link below)

      Personally I would never take ibuprofen for fear of affecting my liver health, but I do take White Willow Bark daily. It is a natural anti-inflammatory (that has been synthesized as aspirin) and I subscribe to the idea of inflammation being one of the main causes leading to Alzheimer’s.

      But the article you linked to makes a good case that includes inflammation as a result of the low energy problem. I personally drink beet juice daily to keep the blood vessels open and therefore, more oxygenated blood getting to the brain. (Link below)

      And the author addresses the a-Beta and Tau, but didn’t touch on the theory that they only cause problems when the naturally occurring molecules are not transported out of the brain on a regular basis, something that Naringen appears to ameliorate. Body posture during sleep also assists in transporting that waste from the brain. (Links below to those findings as well.)

      https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-03-neuroscientists-daily-ibuprofen-alzheimer-disease.html

      https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-06/f-pra062017.php

      http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/31/11034

      https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/wfu-wbj041817.php

      1. Forgot to mention I take liquid drops of raspberry ketones daily. It is sold as a weight loss adjunct by suppressing appetite, but I take it as an energy source.

        Honestly I am unaware if there is a boost in energy levels or brain enhancement. I just take it on faith that what I’ve read about ketones (and experienced from 3-4 day fasts in the past that convert the body to burning fat and thus producing ketones naturally.)

  27. Years ago I read or heard that alcohol kills brain cells. Haven’t read the comments here but I’m curious if there is any studies confirming or denying that?

        1. Do you literally mean killing brain cells? You know what dead brain cells are, right? A stroke. You do know that the brain can’t regenerate correct?
          So if you lost brain cells every time you drank, eventually, you wouldn’t have a brain any more and would be dead. That doesn’t sound very probable does it?

          1. Kevin, we actually have some 86 billion brain cells and there are parts of the brain that can regenerate (astrocytes for instance.)

            But your supposition is a valid one and prompted me to see what the latest science says. And when doing so there were many links to stories that said that alcohol killing brain cells is a myth… untilllllllll, newer research showed that alcohol can kill brain stem cells, moreso in women than men.

            The link:

            https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-11-frequent-alcohol-brain-cells-adults.html

              1. doesn’t change the fact that drinking causes neurodegenerative changes

                Exactly, good to see we are on the same page after all.

    1. Well I guess there goes the red wine.
      Please tell me what I will die from if I eat strictly WFPBNO diet?

      My first thought was to be flippant and say “Boredom” but that’s likely to be untrue. I think it is untrue because I truly believe you will discover a newfound ability to enjoy the experience of living consciously.

      By consciously I mean awareness of time. For me anyway, I notice more things and that slows down the passing of time.

      And even if we are not allotted more actual time in good health, we still receive the benefit of time well spent giving us the illusion of more time.

      1. I have similar feelings about red wine. I also really enjoy craft beer. But not as much as I like living. And being a doctor, I’ve seen a lot of cancer. Even if you beat it, it’s a hell of a journey. Wouldn’t want it.

        As to what we’ll die from, there’s still getting cancer from bad luck. But heart disease is probably out of the question. And then the final top 10 killer that diet doesn’t affect: trauma. Always just the risk of bad luck.
        Wrong place, wrong time. Car accidents. Falls. Victim of inter-personal violence. That kind of thing.

        I heard a quote recently your comment reminded me of, regarding alcohol (and drug) use: “When everything is beautiful, nothing is beautiful.” Good thoughts, Lonie.

        1. Kevin, your comments above and previous reference to Cancer has prompted me to post the link below. As a Dr. I think you will understand the importance as outlined by the excerpt from the study as follows:

          The end products COX2 and iNOS are enzymes involved with the inflammatory response to perceived wounds — both can aid tumor growth. Far upstream in the signaling chain that leads to these unwanted enzymes are STAT1 and STAT3. These transcription factors allow the blueprint of DNA to bind with proteins that continue the signal cascade, eventually leading to the production of harmful COX2 and iNOS.

          Stop STAT1 and STAT3 and you break the chain that leads to COX2 and iNOS — and the growth of lung tumors along with them.

          I’ve no idea what kind of Dr. you are or even if you are still practicing, but if you are and this can benefit your patients then I feel o.k. in taking the liberty of suggesting you may not be aware of this research and that it holds importance for you.

          https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111115145236.htm

  28. My husband and I are Greger fans and followers. Is it really not a good idea to have a glass of red wine with our vegetarian (almost vegan) dinner at least a few days a week? Aren’t there benefits from that?
    Thank you so much.

    1. All available evidence points the fact that there is no safe level of alcohol intake I’m sorry to say.
      The purported benefits of red wine come from the fruit components, not the alcohol.

      Dr. Ben

  29. I was taught a few years ago in dietician school that older people (because they tend to have worse cadiovascular health) sligthly benefit from some alcohol because it relaxes the blood vessels. So the conclusion was, if you are healthy and younger, and not drinking, don’t start. If you are older, and already drinking ocassionally, there might be some benefits to cardiovascular health. Guess they failed to mention that it… causes cancer.

    It is interesting to see that people are becoming more knowledgeable about how diet and cancer is related. You can see this in the comments when people who are eating WFP start asking wether they can drink a glass of wine with their salads. After all…, they are protected by an optimal diet. The question is, where are you going to draw the line? Eating WFPB also drastically cuts lung cancer risk in smokers. But that does not mean it’s a good idea to suddenly start puffing away? You are quite certainly decreasing your life span with these actions, even if you don’t get the associated cancer per se.

    I think it’s quite obvisous in the case of alcohol that this substance does not belong in our diets. I don’t see prehistoric humans drinking their beers or wines while gathering some fruit or painting their caves… It’s a cultural thing, as with meat eating and the food processing.

    If the influence of our diets is so strong when it comes to most of our deseases and WFPB is the natural standard. What is the “real” cancer risk or the real cardiovascular risk of certain things? These studies are always done on people who are eating the average Western diet. And average people probably get cancer just from looking at a bottle of beer. It would be interesting for the future to see these things in relation to people who are eating WFPB.

    Doctors often say “eat a WFPB diet and your body starts healing”, but there is no real miracle when you consider that the resulting health is just the normal function of the body. The only reason why things “cure” is because you were eating the wrong nutrition, which resulted in sub optimal health. So, the body does not “heal” on this diet, you just stop hitting it with a hammer so that it can regain normal function. We are health producing machines.

    Will you get cancer from drinking a glass of wine once or twice a week while eating wfpb? Probably not, but it would potentially increase mortality in some way or the other. And beers and wines are not whole foods, I guess if you drink them, you technically wouldn’t even be on a wfpb diet… There are still alcohol free wines and such that aren’t that bad for your health then the ones that have alcohol.

      1. I don’t know where you are from but, Sardinia has an average life expectancy that is slightly over 82 years (85 for women and 79.7 for men). That is comparable to the life expectancy in my country Belgium, and our neighbours France. In Belgium we do not drink a daily glass of wine. While Italy is the best of our class, 82 years is just an average European life expectancy. There is evidence that 95 years would be closer to an optimal WFPB life expectancy. Sardiana is only on the Blue Zone list because it has the highest amount of centenarians in the world, shared with Okinawa. The Dutch have genes that make them the tallest people in the world. Don’t be so fast as to conlcude that Sardinians don’t have similiar genes to become 100 years.

        We already know that Italy or “The Mediteranian Diet” works despite the use of things like fish and olive oil, goat cheese, sugary sorbets and now alcohol… When you are deciding about something as important as your diet, let’s not base our conlusion solely on one pillar of evidence as centenarian studies but also on basic research, epidemiological studies and randomised trials. And I think that is what we are doing here.

    1. No, not lemonade.

      Drink the Virtual Reality Kool-aid, then put on the goggles streaming a video of being drunk so you can act stupid without any health risks… other than from falling down. ‘-)

    2. Green tea man.

      I think Dr Greger’s mission has always been to give us the information and let us decide what we do with it. So do with this information what you will. Knowing that alcohol raises your risk of certain cancers and there’s no safe level of consumption what would you like to do with that? It’s an individual decision.

  30. By law Starbucks and other coffee company’s in the US must inform the public of a cancer risk by drinking coffee. Last week a court ruling confirmed this.

    Maybe the same law could be used to force wine company’s?

  31. Your recent videos on the connection between alcohol and cancer are eye-opening. The source of the connection is acetaldehyde, a byproduct of ethanol and a known carcinogen.
    https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa72/aa72.htm

    The reason I’m writing is acetaldehyde appears in other foods too, notably youghurt, bananas and vinegar.
    (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3124883/)

    Specifically, the paper states “Very high [acetaldehyde] values were reported for vinegar (1.9–1060 mg/kg) ” This is concerning because many people take ACV regularly, ironically often BECAUSE they have pre-existing gastric issues (!!)

    Do you know of any modern measure for the amount of acetaldehyde in Apple cider vinegar? Increased cancer risk (from this known component of ACV) would be a critical ACV side effect I have not seen addressed.

  32. Hi I’m a RN health support volunteer. Thanks for your great question. Vinegar has been shown to have positive health benefits. I can’t explain why exactly this is when it has a similar component to alcohol and alcohol is a carcinogen. Dr. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, often talks about our “reductionist” view of nutrition. Like when we realized beta carotene was good for us so it was manufactured into supplements, which were then found to cause health problems. We like to take out individual components and call them good or bad when really we should be looking at the whole food.The whole food may have a different effect than the individual components. So I can’t explain exactly why vinegar is health promoting but alcohol is not. There may be all kinds of things about it we haven’t identified. Here is a link to some information Dr. Greger has done on vinegars:
    https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/apple-cider-vinegar/
    https://nutritionfacts.org/video/vinegar-artery-function/
    https://nutritionfacts.org/video/can-vinegar-help-with-blood-sugar-control/

    All the best to you,
    NurseKelly

    1. Appreciate the response but I don’t think you really answered his question.
      He’s asking why the acetaldehyde from vinegar apparently isn’t harmful but from alcohol it’s probably the main carcinogen from alcohol.

    2. The benefits are well documented, but have nothing to do my question. My question is that certain foods (as listed) have a known carcinogen and by one study, vinegar has a VERY high concentration of this known carcinogen. Some people are at risk from esophageal and stomach cancers (many who take ACV) and I am proposing that maybe those exact people are INCREASING their cancer risk as they seek to address other, less dangerous, problems.

      Further, wine and vinegar are notoriously similar. It does not seem crazy to think they have common molecules…. as reported in the study I cited.

      It seems like an important topic given the prevalence of vinegars, especially ACV.

  33. Thanks, but that paper is about alcohol. My question is about vinegar and other foods.

    Let me try again. According to this study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3124883/

    “The highest concentrations of acetaldehyde were determined in vinegar (1.06 g/kg), but also in milk products and diverse fruits and vegetables.”

    We normally hear of carcinogens in a few parts per million. According to this study vinegar is 1000 ppm CARCINOGEN!! Seems like a LOT.

    I am hoping some moderator contacts Dr. Gregor to comment.

    1. If you are looking at what the product contains, that is different from the breakdown product, because it has to go through the stomach acid. From alcohol, I believe it forms as a breakdown product. Bottom line is when you drink alcohol, you can no longer think in the back of you mind, this is good for my heart:)

  34. Great question. I’m not sure there’s a clear answer. Cooking does remove a good deal of the alcohol. The amount is so small (say, a teaspoon of extract may flavor an entire dish) that I suspect it would be very hard to show benefit or harm at this level of exposure. That said, it’s not hard to find alcohol-free extracts by shopping online. In baking, my biggest struggle is eliminating the added sugar, added fat, added salt, and eggs that have known harmful health affects. You may have already developed solutions for this in your kitchen. There are sites out there, like Forks Over Knives, that give plant based, whole food, low salt, sugar, fat baking ideas if you haven’t already searched that out. Best! -Dr Anderson, Health Support Volunteer

    1. Thank you very much!!! I’ve gotten all those other things out of my baking. I just love the flavors of extracts and wondered if it was worth the extra cost of getting the alcohol free flavorings you mention, which are a lot pricier. I tend to save that kind of money for supplements. :) You’re very kind to do this work. <3

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