Study raises concerns about long-term impacts of alcohol

Drinking a pint of beer may lower your life expectancy by the same amount as smoking a cigarette.     NeydtStock

Drinking a pint of beer may lower your life expectancy by the same amount as smoking a cigarette. NeydtStock

The research combined results from 83 studies conducted in 19 countries, tracking almost 600,000 people who drank alcohol.

Now, a new major multinational study has another piece of advice: People who consume more than about six drinks per week have a greater risk of premature death.

Drinking 10 or more drinks every week was linked to one to two years shorter life expectancy.

The United States government now advises no more than seven drinks a week for women and 14 for men. This amount corresponds to 3.4 litres of beer with 4% or six glasses of wine.

By contrast, alcohol consumption was associated with a somewhat lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks, they said-echoing previous research.

The study uses self-reported alcohol consumption across 19 high-income countries.

In the United Kingdom, limits are about eight drinks per week for both men and women, ideally spread over three or more days.

"This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true", said Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, who was not involved in the research.

He also noted it was important to remember the study focussed on mortality rates, not quality of life.

Nutrition professor Jaap Seidell is pleased with the new study, he said to the Volkskrant. The research was published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Many people can drink far more than that in a single day.

You could be taking years off your life by regularly drinking more than the advised United Kingdom guidelines for alcohol, according to new research from an global team.

Limits in Italy, Portugal and Spain are about 50 percent higher than in Britain, where the threshold for safe drinking was recently lowered to 112g. 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.

The new study estimates that 40-year-old men who drink as much as current USA guidelines suggest can expect to live one to two years less than men who have no more than seven drinks per week.

A spokesman for industry body the Alcohol Information Partnership said: "This report confirms our view that moderate drinking does not pose a risk to most people". The highest level of drinking in the study - more than 350 grams per week - was linked with a 4- to 5-year reduction in life expectancy.

"Secondly, there has been a fiction, used by the alcohol industry to maintain nearly unrestrained advertising for its products, that small quantities of alcohol are beneficial, even healthy (reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease)". However, risk of non-fatal heart attacks dipped with more alcohol.

Estimated future years of life lost by extent of reported baseline alcohol consumption compared with those who reported consuming 0-≤100 g per week. Public health advocates have criticized the Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health (MACH15) study in part because starting in 2013, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism solicited donations from the world's biggest alcohol producers, according to the New York Times, to fund the $100 million study-a project equal to a quarter of the agency's annual budget.

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