Published: Fri, April 13, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

Drinking more alcohol leads to lower life expectancy, research finds

Drinking more alcohol leads to lower life expectancy, research finds

The more you drink, the higher your risk, the study says.

"Overall, for a 40-year-old man, the estimated reduction in life expectancy is almost five years for alcohol consumption of more than 350g per week, for a 40-year-old woman it is around four years, compared to consumption of less than 100g per week".

"The take home message is this: less is probably better. This study has shown that drinking alcohol at levels which were believed to be safe is actually linked with lower life expectancy and several adverse health outcomes", said Dr Dan Blazer, the report's co-author.

"This study completely overlooks the well-documented health benefits light to moderate enjoyment of alcohol brings", said James Calder, head of communications for the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).

"Guideline developers tend to recognise that, in line with many other voluntary behaviours, drinkers are likely to be willing to accept some level of risk and have set guideline thresholds accordingly", she said.

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The study's authors note it has several limitations, primarily that it relies on self-reported data about alcohol consumption.

They found the upper safe limit of drinking before there was an increased risk of death was around 12.5 units a week - the equivalent of about five pints of low strength beer or five 175ml glasses of above average strength wine.

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

Compared to a person who downs less than 100g alcohol/week, a 40-year-old who consumed between 100-200g is likely to cut their life expectancy by six months. They recorded 40,310 deaths and 39,018 cardiovascular disease events among the group's members.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: "The 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".

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Ignoring the Government's recommended weekly alcohol limit of 14 units increases the risk of dying early, new research suggests.

However, "this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious - and potentially fatal - cardiovascular diseases", said lead author Angela Wood from the University of Cambridge in Britain.

"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)".

The study was funded by the BHF, UK Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research, European Union Framework 7 and European Research Council.

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