Here at Gainstopia, we’re all about living healthier lives, but not at the expense of actually living. Of course there are a whole host of indirect reasons to cut down on alcohol, such as an increase in kebab consumption…​

But what is alcohol actually doing to your body?

And is any amount of it safe or beneficial?

The Science

In terms of its toxicity alcohol is readily converted into acetaldehyde along with reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a by-product. These have the capacity to damage DNA, proteins, and lipids (basically everything in a cell) and in doing so disrupt a whole host of cellular processes such as energy production by the mitochondria (the little power units inside our cells).

​At the cellular level this damage encompasses (but is not restricted to): cell death, inflammation and potentially carcinogenic (i.e. increasing risk of cancer) changes to your DNA. But what does this mean in broader terms?

As discussed in the previous nutrition post, the liver is a major site of drug detoxification so it of no surprise that alcohol damages the liver via the mechanism described above. Ultimately this can manifest itself in liver cirrhosis and cancer. However the association of alcohol and liver damage is a well circulated fact now so just feels kind of accepted.

Bear in mind though that alcohol knows no boundaries and is happy to disrupt just about anywhere! A good indication of this is, if it can get into your brain and disrupt neurotransmission (brain function) then is sure can tear up just about anywhere it wants to.

For example, the toxic effects of alcohol are heavily associated with cancers from the point of entry in your body to the point of exit [1]. 

This one hits home quite hard because you actually feel the damage with the sickness you experience the next day. Lovely little prelude to cancer of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach etc. 

Another site of action is on your heart. This incredible organ is always getting bombarded by poor lifestyle choices.

Did you know for example that the leading cause of death from smoking is not from lung cancer but rather cardiovascular disease?

​Well the alcohol likes to help out, with alcohol abuse leading to whole body inflammation, damaging blood vessels and the heart itself.

The Data

I get the feeling you want some data so hold on to your hats for…….DATA TIME! 

Are you or do you know a male between the ages of 15-59? Then alcohol is the leading risk factor for your/their death [2]. 

Are you a human being that drinks a little via your mouth? Then you are 45% more likely than a non-drinker to get mouth cancer [3].

Oh you’re not, you’re a heavy drinker? Oh ok, then you are 436% more likely than a non-drinker [3]. 


‘But’, I hear you say, ‘what about all those studies that show a cheeky glass of wine is good for me’. I’m afraid this relationship isn’t quite so clear cut and many health professionals and scientists would argue that no amount of alcohol is safe simply because of its capacity to damage just about anywhere.

Cheer up though; at least alcohol doesn’t increase STI transmission, death by accidents and depression rates. Oh wait…

Know someone who need to understand more about what alcohol does to their body?

Or maybe you’re helping a friend give up drinking for a while?

Then why not share this article on Facebook? 🙂


[1] How Alcohol Causes Cancer
[2] Global status report on alcohol and health 2014
[3] Alcohol-Related Morbidity and Mortality