Heavy drinking is often associated with the development of several serious health conditions such as liver cirrhosis, hypertension, heart attacks and strokes. A recent study says alcohol intake in any quantity increases the risk of more than 60 diseases.

Alcohol consumption is responsible for about three million deaths worldwide every year and contributes to 5.1% of the global burden of diseases and injuries.

In the latest study published in Nature Medicine, researchers evaluated the causal relationship between alcohol intake and over 200 diseases in Chinese men.

Data from the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) were used in the study, which included more than 512,000 adult participants. The health effects of their alcohol consumption over 12 years were analyzed using medical records.

Researchers found that participants with self-reported alcohol intake were at an increased risk of developing 61 diseases. Out of these diseases, 28 were already established as alcohol-related, such as liver cirrhosis, stroke and several gastrointestinal cancers, while 33 others such as gout, cataract, some fractures and gastric ulcers were not previously associated with alcohol intake.

"Alcohol consumption is adversely related to a much wider range of diseases than has previously been established, and our findings show these associations are likely to be causal," Pek Kei Im, a research fellow at Oxford Population Health and a lead author of the paper, said in a news release.

The risk of developing the diseases and hospital stays were higher among participants who drank alcohol regularly than occasional drinkers.

With every four drinks a day, the risk of developing liver cirrhosis and gout doubles. Meanwhile, the risk of having already established alcohol-related diseases increases to 14%, and the risk of having conditions not previously known to be alcohol-related increases to 6%.

The pattern of drinking such as binge drinking, drinking outside mealtimes and daily drinking also increases the risks of certain diseases such as liver cirrhosis.

The findings confirmed an earlier study that linked a higher risk of stroke to higher doses of alcohol intake. However, moderate drinking did not have any protective effects on ischaemic heart disease (IHD).

"This study provides important causal evidence of the scale of alcohol-related harms, which is critical to inform prevention strategies in different countries," said Zhengming Chen, a senior author of the study.

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With every four drinks a day, the risk of developing liver cirrhosis and gout doubles. Unsplash (CC0)