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Study Shows Alcohol Damages DNA and Puts You at Risk for Cancer

Study Shows Alcohol Damages DNA and Puts You at Risk for Cancer

Since the beginning of the Bulletproof blog, the data has been clear: alcohol is not good for humans, no matter how much we want it to be. Now a new study[1] shows that drinking alcohol produces a harmful chemical in the body, which can lead to permanent genetic damage in the DNA of stem cells, thereby increasing the risk of cancer development.

Acetaldehyde causes DNA damage – a cancer risk

Using chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing, British scientists examined the genetic damage caused by acetaldehyde in lab mice. Acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical produced when the body processes alcohol, is linked to the risk of developing 7 types of cancer, including breast and bowel cancer. Specifically, the study found that acetaldehyde breaks and damages DNA in blood stem cell and irreversibly alters these DNA sequences – which is what causes the cancer risk.

The study also detailed how the body attempts to protect itself against alcohol damage. A group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDHs) first break down acetaldehyde into acetate, which cells can then use as an energy source. However, in the study, when mice lacked the ALDHs, they suffered four times the DNA damage as mice with functioning enzymes. There is also a second line of defense against alcohol a DNA repair system which fixes the DNA damage. However, some people (i.e., people from Southeast Asia) have faulty repair systems and the damage is irreparable.  

Know what to drink to minimize risk

That’s why you need to be careful what you drink and how much. For a primer on What to Drink: Bulletproof Alcohol Infographic and Hangover Cures, read here. This Bulletproof Alcohol Roadmap (infographic in that link) also explains how to blunt the aldehyde spike when you do choose to drink, so you can occasionally enjoy high-quality alcohol without the risk of shortening your life later.

The key is to increase levels of an antioxidant called glutathione in the liver, which you can do by taking a glutathione supplement, vitamin C, or high-quality, undenatured whey protein. My advice is to drink smaller amounts of really good stuff – like potato vodka (avoiding grains entirely), which is distilled and charcoal filtered, so your body only copes with the alcohol (no other toxins). If wine is still your go-to, opt for a drier variety that has less inflammation-producing mold, like Dry Farm Wines. You can afford these options when you quit drinking everything else. And block those toxins in your diet overall…get the free Bulletproof Roadmap here.

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, read this piece on how to quit drinking for good.

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