Drinking more alcohol leads to lower life expectancy, research finds

Drinking more alcohol leads to lower life expectancy, research finds

"Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and stroke". "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.

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

Men in the United States are advised to drink no more than 11 glasses of wine, or pints of beer, nearly double than in the UK.

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

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.

"We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target, and try to drink well below this threshold".

"These recommended drinking levels will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol". In that part of the research, 21 study participants at the Medical University of Graz in Austria were randomly assigned to drink either a mixture of alcohol and juice, or juice alone. Professor Yeap says that the size of the study means that the trends are clearer.

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By contrast, alcohol consumption was associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks. "The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines has roughly two years lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life".

"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's recommendations are significantly less than what many countries recommend as an alcohol consumption limit.

The study analysed 599,912 drinkers in 19 countries, none of whom had a known history of cardiovascular disease, and found an increase in all causes of death when more than 100g of alcohol was consumed every week. So the researchers, led by Cambridge University's Dr. Angela Wood, used only information about people who were current drinkers "because ex-drinkers include people who might have abstained from alcohol owing to poor health itself, as well as those who have changed their habits to achieve a healthier lifestyle", they wrote.

Health Promotion Agency policy research and advice general manager Cath Edmondson said the current guidelines would be reviewed next year.

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