Could one drink a day shorten your life?

Study reveals sobering news on how much you should be drinking

The research, which analyzed data from almost 600,000 people in 19 countries, found that drinking more than 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of alcohol per week (the equivalent of about seven standard drinks in the United States) was linked to an increased risk of early death during the study period. But for those who do, the US Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines recommend women limit their consumption to no more than one drink per day (98 grams per week) and men to two daily drinks (196 grams per week).

Drinking more alcohol was linked to higher chances of all cardiovascular conditions except heart attacks, where it was linked to a lower chance.

The findings support recently lowered guidelines in the United Kingdom, which suggest there is no safe level and recommend that both men and women's drinking should not exceed 14 units a week. Therefore, the researchers remind, and warn that drinking alcohol can benefit the body, as many believe.

Drinking alcohol was linked with a reduced risk of non-fatal heart disease, but scientists said this benefit was wiped out by a higher risk of other forms of the illness.

Most Canadians drink alcohol and, as a country, we consume more than 50 per cent above the world average.

The report therefore concluded that the recommended weekly limit for consumption be standardised across different countries at that level for both men and women. "These findings underline what we have already said".

He also noted it was important to remember the study focussed on mortality rates, not quality of life. So the researchers, led by Cambridge University's Dr. Angela Wood, used only information about people who were current drinkers "because ex-drinkers include people who might have abstained from alcohol owing to poor health itself, as well as those who have changed their habits to achieve a healthier lifestyle", they wrote. The research was published in the medical journal The Lancet.




The research did not take into account the possibility of mental disorders such as dementia, which could accompany the other health problems drinkers incur. The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines has roughly two years lower life expectancy, which is about one twentieth of their remaining life. People who drank more had a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease and fatal aortic aneurysm, where your artery or vein swells up and could burst.

Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietician at the British Heart Foundation said: "This powerful study may make sobering reading for countries that have set their recommendations at higher levels than the United Kingdom, but this does seem to broadly reinforce government guidelines for the UK".

A 40-year-old regularly drinking between 200g and 350g of alcohol per week - about 10 to 18 glasses of wine or pints of beer - had a lower life expectancy of around one to two years, researchers found.

The worldwide study, part-funded by the British Heart Foundation, also looked at the association between alcohol and different types of cardiovascular disease.

Estimated future years of life lost by extent of reported baseline alcohol consumption compared with those who reported consuming 0-≤100 g per week.

"The data make it even clearer that the alcohol industry is promoting a misleading view that alcohol use is benign", he says.

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