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Drinking too much can take years off of your life

15 April 2018
Drinking too much can take years off of your life

Drinking more than a glass of wine or beer can take years off your life, a study has found. Consuming between 200-350g per week lowered life expectancy by one to two years, and more than 350g by up to five years. "Alcohol consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious - and potentially fatal - cardiovascular diseases".

Researchers from the University of Cambridge recently conducted a study that examined the health risks of drinking more than the recommended alcohol guidelines.

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.

About half of those studied reported drinking more than 12.5 units a week - roughly five pints or medium glasses of wine - while nearly one in ten (8.5 per cent) consumed more than triple that amount.

That directly contradicts United States government guidelines that define moderate, "low-risk" drinking as two drinks a day for men and one drink for women, with a limit of 14 a week for men and seven for women - with lower levels for people over the age of 65.

The latest global research has just trashed Australian health guidelines of having no more than two alcoholic drinks each day.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association, both say men can safely drink twice a day as much as women. The Australian guidelines suggest a full-strength can or stubby of 375 millilitres of beer or a restaurant serving of 150 millilitres of white wine is 1.4 standard drinks.

The team also explored links between how much alcohol people consumed and their risk of different types of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found those drinking more than five 175ml glasses of wine or pints of beer each week were at greater risk of stroke, heart failure and fatal aneurysm.

"We have 40 years of research that shows light to moderate drinking equals improved cognitive function and memory in ageing as well as reduced chance of vascular dementia", Calder continued. "The experiment showed that there is no benefit even from small doses of alcohol", said the study authors.

University of Western Australia Professor Bu Yeap, a co-author of the study, said it was a "suitable time" for current Australian guidelines on alcohol consumption to be reviewed so that the new information could be considered.

Recommended drinking limits in the United States are now 98 grams for women and double for men - at two drinks per day - while limits in Italy, Spain and Portugal are nearly 50 percent higher.

Nowcomes a huge study spearheaded by the UK's University of Cambridge published in The Lancet this week.

"This study makes it clear that alcohol leads to many other diseases which, in total, increase the risk of death". In an effort to avoid the problems that have plagued alcohol and health studies for decades, researchers only studied current drinkers, excluding abstainers or those who'd quit drinking.

Participants' alcohol intake was also self-reported so people may have under-reported the amount they drink.

Of course, Victoria Taylor has a good point, saying that we should consider the guidelines as a limit, not a target!