Regular excess drinking can take years off your life, study finds

Grant Boone
April 15, 2018

According to the results of the study revealed that the average person aged 40 years who consumed 350 grams of pure alcohol a week had reduced life expectancy by 1-2 years.

The authors of the study said their findings also challenged the widely held belief that moderate drinking is beneficial to cardiovascular health, and support the UK's recently lowered guidelines.

Pooling data from 83 studies of current drinkers in 19 high income countries, researchers linked an alcohol intake of more than 3.5 oz. alcohol-about seven standard U.S. drinks-with higher mortality.

The UK's recommended safe drinking limits state that men and women should not indulge in more than 14 units of alcohol, or about six glasses, in a week.

A large new study has suggested that you are more at risk of dying or of a range of heart and circulatory conditions if you have as little as one alcoholic drink a day.

It's official, everyone: We're drinking too much booze and it's cutting us short of precious life.

In the United Kingdom, limits are about eight drinks per week for both men and women, ideally spread over three or more days. This equates to around six pints of beer or six glasses of wine a week. "By contrast, alcohol consumption was associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks".

Strikingly, the data did not show a significant difference between men and women in the amount of alcohol that can be consumed without a drop in life expectancy.

But they said "on balance" there are no health benefits from drinking and further research was needed to explore the link.

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"The drinking levels recommended in this study will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol", they wrote in a commentary.

Around half of the almost 600,000 participants said they consumed the equivalent of more than of seven alcoholic drinks per week, while almost 10 percent reported drinking more than 25.

The upper recommended limit for men in the U.S. is nearly 25 units of alcohol per week.

Professor Bu Yeap, a co-author from the School of Medicine at the University of Western Australia, says the study is important as it analyses data from almost 600,000 people from all over the world.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund recommend in a joint report that people limit alcohol.

The researchers noted that the study tracked people's alcohol consumption for at least a year but did not examine the effect of alcohol consumption over a person's entire lifetime.

Rao, visiting lecturer in old age psychiatry at King's College London, told The Guardian the study "highlights the need to reduce alcohol related harm in baby boomers, an age group now at highest risk of rising alcohol misuse".

"This study makes it clear that alcohol leads to many other diseases which, in total, increase the risk of death". Experts say even moderate drinking can raise blood pressure, which is a well-known cause of heart attack, stroke and other circulation problems.

"We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target and try to drink well below this threshold".

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