April 20, 2018

Drinking more alcohol leads to lower life expectancy, research finds

13 April 2018, 01:38 | Lena Norman

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Study reveals sobering news on how much you should be drinking

An analysis of over half a million drinkers suggests alcohol consumption should be limited to below 100g per week.

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

The latest global research has just trashed Australian health guidelines of having no more than two alcoholic drinks each day.

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

Consuming between 200-350g per week lowered life expectancy by one to two years, and more than 350g by up to five years.

Experts, who are increasingly associating a higher risk of stroke, fatal aneurysm, heart failure and death with excessive drinking, say that if you regularly have more than 9 drinks a week then you risk shortening your life by 1-2 years.

"These data support adoption of lower limits of alcohol consumption than are recommended in most current guidelines", the report added.

Current alcohol consumption guidelines vary around the world - in Australia, no more than 140 grams per week (14 standard drinks) is the current recommended limit.

Recommended limits in Italy, Portugal, and Spain are almost 50% higher than this, and in the United States of America the upper limit for men is nearly double this. For instance, Spain and Romania set the upper limit for men at the equivalent of 20 drinks each week.

Exceeding recommended drinking amounts can cause permanent damage Alcohol consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious - and potentially fatal - cardiovascular diseases. They recorded 40,310 deaths and 39,018 cardiovascular disease events among the group's members.

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

"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).

On average, each unit of alcohol that exceeds the 100-gram limit slices off 15 minutes of a person's life - about the same as a cigarette, said David Spiegelhalter, a professor at the University of Cambridge, in a comment on the report.

"What it shows is that the amount of alcohol consumed affects the risk of dying", says Yeap.

The study found similar results for men and women and pointed out that people aged 40 who consume 200-350g per week could increase their life expectancy by up to three years if they halved their alcohol consumption.

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.

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

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

"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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