Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

Alcohol guidelines in many countries may not be safe

Drinking a pint of beer may lower your life expectancy by the same amount as smoking a cigarette.     NeydtStock Drinking a pint of beer may lower your life expectancy by the same amount as smoking a cigarette. NeydtStock
Anna Jefferson | 13 April, 2018, 11:35

Authors said the study backed up the UK's recently lowered guidelines, which since 2016 recommend both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week, the equivalent of about six drinks a week. Even the most casual drinkers among us, including those following USA government recommendations, can see months and years taken away by steadily hitting the hooch, according to a new study by an global team of researchers.

Alcohol guidelines vary substantially from country to country.

The more people drank, the higher the risk of a range of life threatening illnesses, including stroke and heart failure. A standard drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer or four ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits. Their findings indicate the US recommendation for alcohol is too high, could be leading to shorter life expectancies and therefore should be lowered. In one of the largest worldwide alcohol consumption studies, the researchers noted that taking over six glasses of wine or six cans of beer per week can reduce years of life.

The study also found that alcohol consumption was linked to a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but experts said "on balance" there are no health benefits from drinking.

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.

Dr Angela Wood, from the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study, said: "The key message of this research is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions".

However, risk of non-fatal heart attacks dipped with more alcohol.

The UK recommends people do not drink more than 14 units a week - or around 6 pints of beer or glasses of wine - giving it one of the strictest set of guidelines in the world.

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Limits in Italy, Portugal and Spain are about 50 per cent higher than in Britain, where the threshold for safe drinking was recently lowered to 112g.

"Nonetheless, the findings ought to be widely disseminated and they should provoke informed public and professional debate".

"And the more recent data showing such a clear link between alcohol use and cancer underlines the importance of reducing alcohol use to improve health".

"The drinking levels recommended in this study will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol", wrote Professors Jason Connor and Wayne Hall, University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, in a commentary for The Lancet.

The researchers factored in other health-related data such as the participants' age, gender, diabetes history, their socio-economic status, and whether they smoked.

A new study has shown that the current safe limits of alcohol consumption are overestimated.

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