Current Issue

As you cruise into Christmas and kick back for the year, new health warnings suggest you may want to rethink your drinks.

Alcohol use is now a proven cause of cancer, and the belief that it protects against heart disease has been misguided, according to a position statement by Cancer Council Australia (CCA).

While it’s been known for more than 20 years that regular consumption of alcohol can lead to cancer, we now have specific evidence that it causes cancer of the pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon in men, and breast in women. And your level of risk goes up in line with your level of intake.

Good for your heart?

CCA has further concluded that the existing evidence does not justify the promotion of alcohol use to prevent heart disease. The previously reported role of alcohol in reducing the risk of developing heart disease in light-to-moderate drinkers has been overestimated. For example, the misclassification of former drinkers (who may have stopped drinking due to ill health or older age) into the nondrinkers group created confusion in the research, which has tended to muddy the waters when interpreting the results.

While some people promote a glass of red for your heart, the Heart Foundation advises against the consumption of any red wine and other types of alcoholic drinks for the prevention or treatment of heart disease.

What to drink

Controversy may exist about the role of wine for the heart, but CCA advises that the best way to reduce your risk of cancer is to avoid the consumption of alcohol altogether.

There are also smarter ways to avoid the risk of a heart attack that don’t increase your risk of getting cancer. These include a healthy diet, exercise, rest, and abstinence from smoking.

And the good news is that you don’t have to stick out at a party, because there are many options for nonalcoholic drinks that look like the real thing. De-alcoholized wine and beer and alcohol-free cider and champagne are widely available in supermarkets and online stores.

Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat to Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve wellbeing. See for more nutrition information.

Food Matters: Alcohol Advice Revisited

by Sue Radd
From the December 2014 Signs