Calls for a review of safe alcohol consumption guidelines

15 April, 2018, 00:30 | Author: Darrell Lopez
  • Drinking alcohol linked to lower life expectancy

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

They concluded: "These data support adoption of lower limits of alcohol consumption than are recommended in most current guidelines".

If a 40-year-old man dropped his intake from two drinks a day to around five drinks a week, he could expect to add an average of a year or two to his life, the researchers projected.

However, drinking above this limit was linked with lower life expectancy.

The current United Kingdom guidelines advise limiting alcohol intake to 14 units a week for women and men.

The study also found that alcohol consumption was linked with an increased risk of stroke or heart failure, as well as an increased risk of death from hypertensive disease (high blood pressure) or an aortic aneurysm.

These limits are lower than the levels for many other countries, but this latest study suggests they are about right.

The recommended limits in Italy, Portugal, and Spain are nearly 50% higher than this.

Another point of difference from these recommendations, is the study's universal threshold for a "minimum mortality risk" that doesn't discriminate between genders. Shawn Freeman, visiting from St. Louis, said other things influence how much he drinks, like his mood and whether he'll be driving.

Dr. Angela Wood of Cambridge University led the research.




"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. But perhaps the biggest gut punch is their math on the consequences you can face for drinking more than that.

The government's health website says that while most Canadians drink in moderation, it's estimated that four to five million of them engage in "high risk drinking, which is linked to motor vehicle accidents, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and other health issues, family problems, crime and violence".

Authors of the Lancet study said their findings backed up the new guidelines and also said they did not find an increased risk of death for light drinkers. "The mental and social benefits of enjoying alcohol sensibly are also overlooked".

They spanned almost 50 years and 19 high-income countries where alcohol drinking guidelines vary greatly, especially in the United States, Portugal and Spain.

Bearing in mind that the 2016 United Kingdom guidelines recommend no more than 14 units per week - or the equivalent of six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine - it sounds like a fair few of us could be in trouble.

"Higher alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk of heart attack, but higher risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart events".

Drinking sensibly has been shown in the past to reduce the chance of a non-fatal heart attack and can even be good for the brain.

The researchers particularly looked at cardiovascular diseases in this study. However, if people in the studies routinely underestimated their alcohol consumption, that would mean the meta-analysis results tend towards underestimating the harm alcohol causes.

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

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