Latest scientific news 27 April 2017

Only “couch potatoes” seem to have a higher alcohol-related cancer and mortality risk

The results of this large British study showed that the association between alcohol intake and mortality risk was moderated by physical activity. Among drinking “couch potatoes” (inactive participants not meeting the recommendation of minimal physical activity per week), a clear dose-response risk for cancer mortality – from drinking within the guidelines and up to a harmful level – was observed.

High consumption of alcoholic beverages is linked to an increased risk of all-cause and cancer mortality and certain cardiovascular diseases (CVD). At the same time, there is compelling evidence showing that regular physical activity (PA) is associated with cardiovascular health, reduced cancer mortality, CVD mortality, and all-cause mortality. Mechanistic research suggests that consuming alcoholic beverages and PA may be linked to chronic disease through shared pathways but acting in opposite direction.

To examine whether PA moderates the association between alcohol intake and all-cause mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) mortality, researchers from Canada, Australia, UK and Norway carried out a prospective study using 8 British population-based surveys, each linked to cause-specific mortality.

36 370 men and women aged 40 years and over were included during the 9.7 years of follow up.

A direct association between the consumption of alcoholic beverages and cancer mortality as well as all-cause mortality was only found among inactive participants (those who did not meet the lower PA recommendation, ≤7.5, MET-hour/week*). However, the association between alcohol intake and mortality risk was strongly attenuated (for all-cause) or nearly nullified (for cancer) among individuals who met the PA recommendations.

These results provide an additional argument for the role of PA as a means to promote the health of the population even in the presence of other less healthy behaviours.

(*) Metabolic equivalent task (hr/week) = energy expenditure from sports and walking during the week

Perreault K, Bauman A, Johnson N, et al. Does physical activity moderate the association between alcohol drinking and all-cause, cancer and cardiovascular diseases mortality? A pooled analysis of eight British population cohorts. Br J Sports Med. 2017;51:651-657.

For more information about this article, read the scientific abstract here.