Monday, 22 October, 2018

Regular excess drinking leads to a shorter life, study says

Drinking alcohol linked to lower life expectancy Drinking alcohol linked to lower life expectancy
| 15 April, 2018, 01:31

The results applied equally to women and men.

The 2016 United Kingdom guidelines recommend no more than 14 units a week, which is six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine.

The Netherlands' guideline for drinking alcohol is: do not drink alcohol, or at least not more than one glass a day. There was no clear threshold below which alcohol consumption stopped being associated with these conditions, the researchers said. Find out more about calculating units of alcohol.

This research could help countries looking to set or review their drinking guidelines, which vary around the world.

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

The "safe" limit of drinking before the risk of death increased is around 12.5 alcohol units per week - the equivalent of around five pints of beer. The risks of drinking over the allowed weekly limit for a 40-year-old were comparable to smoking, according to the study's authors. There's also no agreed classification for the size of a glass of wine.

What kind of research was this?

The study was wide-ranging, involving 120 co-authors and close to 600,000 participants in 83 surveys from 19-high income countries.

A standard drink refers to 10 grams of pure alcohol, but a serving of alcohol usually differs from a "standard" drink. Spiegelhalter was not involved in the research.


The authors note that the different relationships between alcohol intake and various types of cardiovascular disease may relate to alcohol's elevating effects on blood pressure and on factors related to elevated high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) (also known as "good" cholesterol).

The study doesn't take into account the possibility of accompanying mental disorders, such as dementia, which could explain why people reduced their alcohol consumption over the follow-up period.

Many people can drink far more than that in a single day.

The drop in life expectancy for a 40-year-old who drinks between 100 and 200 grams is six months, on average, compared with someone who drinks between zero and 100 grams, the study found. Drinking 200 to 350 grams was associated with a one- to two-year decline in life expectancy, and drinking more than 350 grams corresponded to a four- to five-year drop, on average.

Drinking was also associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease, and fatal aortic aneurysms but a lowered risk of non-fatal heart attacks.

The study found an increase in all causes of death among those who consumed more than 100 grams of alcohol per week, supporting calls to reduce alcohol consumption limits.

This was an impressive study that analysed a lot of high-quality data. The shocking findings challenge the widely held belief that moderate drinking is beneficial to heart health.

The findings dovetail with recent research showing that even low levels of alcohol raise the risk of cancer, particularly breast and colon cancer.

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