How alcohol affects your body

Watch the videos about alcohol and its impact on the heart, liver, weight gain, erectile dysfunction and mental health.

Effects of alcohol on the body

Alcohol affects your body in a number of ways and can impact on your short and long term health. Watch the videos about alcohol and its impact on the heart, liverweight gain, erectile dysfunction and mental health below for more information.

The more you drink, the greater the chance of developing alcohol-related problems. You can keep your risk low by drinking within the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines by not regularly drinking more than 14 units a week. Drinking above the guidelines increases your risk of a wide range of serious health conditions including, heart and liver disease and seven types of cancer. You can visit our support services page for help cutting back.

Watch the videos about the effects of alcohol on the body and learn how it impacts your stomach, heart, liver and understand the relationship between alcohol and mental health, erectile dysfunction and weight gain.

Alcohol and weight gain

Alcoholic drinks contain a high number of calories, which can impact your weight. Fat, especially on men, tends to go to the belly and belly fat is more dangerous than other fats. It can can squeeze your organs, it can also release harmful chemicals into your blood and this can lead to cardio vascular disease, diabetes1and even dementia2.

Use our Unit and Calorie Calculator

Alcohol and mental health

From anxiety to stress, alcohol can have negative effects on your mental health. Too much alcohol can change your brain's ability to stay balanced and run smoothly3. The more you drink the more your brain is affected, making you nervous and low. It can also stop you from sleeping properly, leaving you sluggish and irritable.

Alcohol and the heart

Regularly having just a couple of pints of lager can weaken your heart and shrink your arteries4. This makes it harder for blood to be pumped and pass through, which increases your blood pressure. That same pressure can lead to blood clots - which can cause strokes and brain damage.

Alcohol and the liver

Having more than just two beers or two glasses of wine in a regular basis can put your liver at risk5. The liver breaks the chemicals in the body and when it has to break down too much alcohol it struggles to do its job and can become fatty and scarred. 

Alcohol and the stomach

Alcohol can negatively affect your gut. It can cause the stomach acid that's meant to break down your food to attack the lining of the stomach and the muscles that surround it. Alcohol is high in calories and carbs, so when these are washed down your gut they put it under a lot of strain. That's why you can feel bloated as your intestines try to cope. Regularly drinking too much alcohol can make you experience more severe effects like nausea, vomiting, ulcers and even stomach cancer if left untreated.

Alcohol and erectile dysfunction

Alcohol slows and prevents the release of sex hormones affecting blood flow to the penis - and this can make it harder to get and sustain an erection. Moreover, alcohol can damage the testicles over time and this can also lower testosterone levels, and harm fertility.

How to reduce your drinking

Cut back, eat right and get active 

If you're looking for other ways to improve your all-round health then try these free apps from Public Health England:

ONE YOU Active 10

Exercise made easy. An app that helps to get you off the sofa with just 10 minutes of brisk walking a day. Set goals and track your progress. Simple!

Try the app

ONE YOU Easy Meals

If you find yourself short of inspiration for how to make nutritious meals then this app is for you. Quick, simple and most importantly healthy recipes straight to your smart phone.

Try the app


[1] Montague, C. T. and S. O'Rahilly (2000). "The perils of portliness: causes and consequences of visceral adiposity." Diabetes 49(6): 883-888.

[2] Whitmer, R., et al. (2008). "Central obesity and increased risk of dementia more than three decades later." Neurology 71(14): 1057-1064.

[3] Bellos, S., et al. (2013). "Cross-cultural patterns of the association between varying levels of alcohol consumption and the common mental disorders of depression and anxiety: Secondary analysis of the WHO Collaborative Study on Psychological Problems in General Health Care." Drug and alcohol dependence 133(3): 825-831.

[4] Chen, L., et al. (2008). "Alcohol intake and blood pressure: a systematic review implementing a Mendelian randomization approach." PLoS Med 5(3): e52.

[5] Savolainen, V. T., et al. (1993). "Alcohol Consumption and Alcoholic Liver Disease: Evidence of a Threshold Level of Effects of Ethanol." Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 17(5): 1112-1117.

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