Muscle Sport Magazine

Simplifying Science: Alcohol is Damaging Your DNA and Probably Killing You

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By Nathan Jendrick – Simplifying Science is a new column from author, coach and trainer Nathan Jendrick, written with a goal of breaking down new research into an easy-to-understand, quick read.

Everyone has their vice. Whether it is sugar-rich treats, a beer or three, cigars or “dip,” even the health-conscious have their go-to no-no. And, to be fair, you can’t be perfect all of the time, so it’s easy to justify a little deviation from the norm now and again. But at the very least, we should all be very aware of the risks that come along with these vices. And thanks to new research from the UK recently published in the journal Nature, we now know more important facts about alcohol: It’s probably ruining our DNA.

Researchers have found that alcohol causes changes in stem cells—unspecialized cells that can develop into many good or bad cells—and increases the risk of cancer. In fact, the research found that alcohol is strongly linked to seven common cancers including breast cancer and liver cancer.

So, how did researchers determine alcohol was so awful for living beings? The short, easy-to-digest version is this:

Generally, cells are protected by enzymes called “aldehyde dehydrogenases,” or ALDH for short. These enzymes take the toxic acetaldehyde that is produced when the body processes alcohol and converts it (more or less) to acetate which the body can process out. The problem is this process isn’t perfect and, to make matters worse, millions of people around the world either don’t have ALDH enzymes or their ALDH enzymes don’t function properly. So in this study, scientists compared mice with working ALDH to those with inactive ALDH and sought to find out what issues, if any, alcohol caused them.

The results, put plainly, were staggering. Using DNA sequencing technology, scientists showed that the ALDH-altered mice endured four times as much damage to their DNA as those with working ALDH defenses. And to make matters worse, the damage was irreparable. Once the DNA was altered the repair systems they promote were forever changed, leaving the body more susceptible to various diseases and dangerous cell growth.

The study was done in the United Kingdom where alcohol is thought to contribute to at least 12,000 cases of cancer annually. With the UK having only about 66 million people compared to America’s 323 million, you can piece together how many cancer cases alcohol may be contributing to in our own backyard.

While no one is suggesting you necessarily quit drinking altogether, it’s always a good thing to have knowledge behind you when you’re debating on ordering another round. Like everything, moderation is likely key, and your very own DNA might thank you for it.


Nathan Jendrick is the author of many books, including Gym-Free and Ripped, Gym-Free and Toned and Gregg Valentino’s Death, Drugs & Muscle. Find his books here:

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