The weekly alcohol limit still carries a risk of early death

  • The weekly alcohol limit still carries a risk of early death

The weekly alcohol limit still carries a risk of early death

A sweeping global study of alcohol consumption has found no overall health benefits from moderate drinking and calls into question the USA guidelines that say men can safely drink twice as much as women. Spain and Romania set the upper limit for men at the equivalent of 20 drinks each week, for example.

The study did find that the alcohol consumption is linked to a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks, but that this is outweighed by the increased risk of other serious and potentially fatal cardiovascular diseases.

Updated advice from the UK's chief medical officer said it is safest for men and women not to drink more than 14 units a week - equal to six pints of beer or six glasses of wine.

Drinking the equivalent of 100-200g of pure alcohol a week shortened life expectancy by about six months compared to drinking less than 100g, found the study. Spain, Portugal and Italy, the study states, have recommended limits almost 50% higher than the 100-gram threshold. There's variation from country to country as to how many grams of alcohol are generally found in a standard drink. Yeap suggests that the best amount that can be safely taken is less than 100 grams of alcohol per week.

Lead author, Dr Angela Wood said: "The key message of this research for public health is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions".

Tracy Parker from the British Heart Foundation says any positive health effects of drink are relatively minor.

The worldwide team of researchers analyzed almost 600,000 people aged 30-100 from 19 different countries as part of 80 different studies.

Drinkers who ignore alcohol consumption guidelines could be cutting years off their lives, researchers say.

These warnings should be heeded by physicians when talking to their patients about their drinking habits, said one of the study co-authors, Dan Blazer, professor of psychiatry emeritus at Duke University School of Medicine.

"Nonetheless, the findings ought to be widely disseminated and they should provoke informed public and professional debate".

"The study suggests that reductions in alcohol consumption could increase life expectancy by up to two years in a 40-year-old drinker".

"It's a very impressive study", said Aaron White, senior scientific adviser at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health.

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

"The study supports an adoption of lower limits of alcohol consumption than are recommended in most current guidelines across the globe - 100 grams per week maximum", Professor Hall said.

The researchers point out that there is no thresholds below which lower alcohol consumption stopped being associated with disease risk but that the threshold for lowest risk was 100g per week.

"Evidence reviews on the health effects of alcohol consumption are now underway, which will help inform the recommendations in the revised guidelines", a spokesman says.

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