Alcohol guidelines in many countries may not be safe

14 April, 2018, 14:41 | Author: Keith Rowe
  • If you're really concerned about your longevity don't have more than a drink a day

For example, USA guidelines recommend that men drink no more than 196 grams (7 ounces) per week, or 14 standard drinks.

Study participants who said they consumed more than seven drinks per week had higher overall rates of mortality.

Scientists analysed almost 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries, and calculated how much their life would be reduced if they drank the same amount for the rest of their lives from the age of 40.

An worldwide team of researchers looked at data from 600,000 people in 19 countries, who were asked about drinking habits dating back as long ago as 1964.

A standard drink contains 10g of pure alcohol and is equivalent to a half-pint of 4.5% lager, a small glass of a wine or a pub measure of spirits.

Australia guidelines say that 14 standard drinks or seven pints of beer or around nine glasses of wine per week is safe.

United Kingdom guidelines were changed in 2016 to 14 units every week for men and women, lower than the limits in Italy, Portugal and Spain. Spain and Romania both suggest drinking as many as 20 alcoholic drinks per week for men is acceptable.

Research from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation, which looked at 600,000 drinkers across the world, discovered that anything more than five glasses of wine, or pints of beer, is unsafe to health, and could be knocking years off a person's lifespan.

"Drinking more may reduce the risk of nonfatal heart attack, but actually, let's balance that against the higher risk of stroke and other fatal cardiovascular diseases and shorter life expectancy", Wood said.

Dr Dan G Blazer, co-author, at Duke University in the U.S., says doctors and other healthcare professionals must transmit this message to their patients.


Drinking between 200g and 350g of alcohol a week - roughly 10 to 18 glasses of wine or pints of beer - could cut one to two years off a person's average life expectancy, the study said.

In numerous individual studies included in the meta-analysis, the participants were asked only once about how much alcohol they drank - and people are notoriously bad at accurately reporting their drinking. "Nonetheless, the findings ought to be widely disseminated and they should provoke informed public and professional debate".

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Cambridge and was published in The Lancet journal.

Nutrition professor Jaap Seidell is pleased with the new study, he said to the Volkskrant. Yeap suggests that the best amount that can be safely taken is less than 100 grams of alcohol per week.

Alcohol consumption was found to be associated with a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but researchers point out that this must be weighed against increased risk of potentially fatal heart disease. For example, life expectancy was 6 months lower among those who drank 100 to 200 grams (7 ounces) per week, and life expectancy was 1 to 2 years lower among those who drank 200 to 300 grams (10.5 ounces) per week, compared with those who drank less than 100 grams a week.

The study, led by Dr. Angela Wood of the University of Cambridge, analyzed about 600,000 drinkers around the world.

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

"These figures are in line with the UK Chief Medical Officer's guidance and support previous studies which show that the lifetime risk from many cardiovascular diseases for most people who are moderate drinkers is lower than for those who drink heavily, or don't drink at all". However, risk of non-fatal heart attacks dipped with more alcohol. Research that rolls together previous studies can be problematic if they aren't similar enough, though this one appears to have done a good job at overcoming that obstacle and combining comparable data, Jernigan said.

"Evidence reviews on the health effects of alcohol consumption are now underway, which will help inform the recommendations in the revised guidelines", a spokesman says.

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