November 18, 2018

There is no safe level of alcohol intake, study warns

26 August 2018, 09:59 | Rodolfo Wallace

A wine tasting in France

A wine tasting in France

Drinking alcohol was found to be the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disease in 2016, accounting for 2.2% of deaths in women and 6.8% of deaths in men overall, largely from alcohol-related cancers. The number goes up to 918 when people drink an average of one alcoholic drink per day, and the risk goes up from there for each additional alcoholic drink consumed.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, made it clear however in his own appraisal of the paper. Although the study found that alcohol offered some protection against coronary-artery disease in women, "the strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries and infectious diseases" offset that.

In 2016, 1.5 billion men and 900,000 women were current drinkers.

The study used data from 694 studies to estimate how common drinking alcohol is worldwide and used 592 studies including 28 million people worldwide to study the health risks associated with alcohol between 1990 to 2016 in 195 countries.

It suggested any alcohol benefits are outweighed by harms. However, although the risks are real, it doesn't necessarily mean you should become a teetotaler.

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Unfortunately, it seems that compared to abstinence even one single standard drink which is the equivalent to a small beer, glass of wine or shot of spirits per day can raise the odds of developing at least one of two dozen health issue by about half-a-percent, according to this latest study.

Even if alcohol had some tiny positive effect on the heart, it wouldn't come close to balancing the mountain of health risks any amount of regular alcohol use causes elsewhere, such as vehicle accidents and cancer.

Two drinks per day increased the chances of disease and injury by 7 percent, the researchers wrote. After all, even experts accept that drinking alcohol is pretty fun (in moderation, of course). But this new study looked at a range of factors and concluded that any possible benefits were heavily outweighed by the risks.

"When you think about it there's no safe level of doing anything". Analyzing data from 15- to 95-year-olds, the researchers compared people who didn't drink at all with those who had one drink a day. They're often self-reported, which relies on people recalling their drinking habits, which is subject to human error; or based on alcohol sales data, which doesn't always provide an accurate picture of people's individual consumption levels.

"The take-home message being that people shouldn't drink under the belief that it will lower their risk of disease", he said, "and those of us who opt to drink should minimize our intake if we wish to prolong our life and well-being". This is because the drinking levels were far higher generally among men, with Romanian men drinking more than eight drinks daily. They were responsible for 27.1 per cent of alcohol-related deaths of women and 18.9 per cent of men. "And that the safest level, from a health perspective, is not drinking at all".

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