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Alcohol consumption increases the risks of over 60 diseases in Chinese men, including many diseases not previously linked to alcohol, according to a new study by researchers from Nuffield Department of Population Health and Peking University, published in Nature Medicine.

Glasses of wine

Alcohol consumption is estimated to be responsible for about 3 million deaths worldwide each year, and it is increasing in many low- and middle-income countries such as China. The harmful effects of heavy drinking for certain diseases (such as liver cirrhosis, stroke and several types of cancer) are well known, but very few studies have systematically assessed the impact of alcohol use on an extensive range of diseases within the same population.

The study shows that alcohol use increases the risks of 61 diseases in men in China, including many non-fatal diseases not known to be alcohol-related due to limited previous evidence. The findings of this study demonstrate the influence that alcohol intake may have on risk of disease in populations around the world.

The researchers used data from the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB), a collaborative study of over 512,000 adults recruited during 2004-08 from ten diverse urban and rural areas across China. Study participants were interviewed about their lifestyle and behaviours, including detailed alcohol drinking patterns. About a third of men, but only 2% of women, drank alcohol regularly (ie at least once a week). The researchers comprehensively assessed the health effects of alcohol use on over 200 different diseases in men identified through linkage to hospital records over a period of about 12 years. Importantly, they also undertook a genetic analysis to clarify whether or not alcohol intake was responsible for causing disease.

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website