The hidden dangers of ethanol

Know what you're drinking. (iStock)

Carole Levy

As part of its Drink Less, Live More campaign to raise awareness of the link between alcohol consumption and cancer, Cancer Council Victoria has analysed what’s in your drink and the results are startling.

It might shock Australians to know, for instance, that essentially what they’re drinking on a boozy night out with mates, or during a few quiet ones, is ethanol. That’s the same ingredient as we put in our cars to keep them running.

There are a number of leading theories about how alcohol can lead to cancer. These include toxic chemicals in ethanol that lead to cell mutation, increasing cell susceptibility to absorbing cancer-causing chemicals or by increasing the levels of hormones such as oestrogen in the body.

The Alcohol by Volume (ABV) content level on the side of your bottle can help you calculate how much ethanol is in your drink. For instance, if your 375ml stubby is 4.5 per cent ABV you’re drinking around 17ml of ethanol with every bottle – about half a shot’s worth. And a 150ml glass of 12.5 per cent ABV wine has about 19ml, more than half a shot of ethanol.

When this ethanol comes into contact with our organs, and our cells move in to break it down, our body produces a toxic offshoot called acetaldehyde, which swims through the body damaging our DNA and stopping our cells from repairing the damage.

When damaged DNA makes broken copies of itself to repair the body, this can lead to a genetic mutation and cancer.

And don’t be fooled into thinking low-carb beers are the healthy option.It’s the alcohol content, not the number of carbs that are causing the most damage.

Don’t let the big alcohol companies fool you into thinking what you’re drinking is safe. You deserve to know what’s hiding in the products you’re putting into your body.

Source: Cancer Council Victoria