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Drinking more alcohol linked to lower life expectancy, research finds

15 April 2018, 12:30 | Franklin Nunez

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

The study, which was on Friday, was based on the health data of almost 600 thousand alcohol drinkers from 19 countries.

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

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.

"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).

The US government now recommends no more than seven drinks a week for women, but twice that amount for men.

In fact, an global study by the Lancet medical journal found that drinking alcohol multiple times a week may shorten your lifespan. This equates to around six pints of beer or six glasses of wine a week.

Alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal aortic aneurysms, fatal hypertensive disease and heart failure and there were no clear thresholds where drinking less did not have a benefit.

The study's recommendation of 100 grams is also far less than national alcohol consumption recommendations around the world.

The recommended limit in the United Kingdom is 14 units a week.

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He also noted it was important to remember the study focussed on mortality rates, not quality of life.

The researchers noted that the study tracked people's alcohol consumption for at least a year but did not examine the effect of alcohol consumption over a person's entire lifetime.

"Nationally, consumption has been in decline for the last decade and most importantly harmful drinking and binge drinking are also in decline".

Even more excessive drinking, a weekly total of more than 17 drinks, was linked with a shorter life expectancy of 4-5 years. Drinking raises the risk of both cancer and heart disease, and one study suggested that drinking accounts for 15 percent of breast cancer cases. This slightly lower risk of heart attack tied to alcohol consumption must be balanced against the other "serious, and potentially fatal, cardiovascular diseases" linked with alcohol consumption, lead study author Dr. Angela Wood, a lecturer in biostatistics at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, said in the statement.

They spanned almost 50 years and 19 high-income countries where alcohol drinking guidelines vary greatly, especially in the United States, Portugal and Spain.

The study found that on average, drinking the equivalent of 10 pints of beer or glasses of wine each week was linked with one to two years shorter life expectancy.

The National Health and Medical Research Council says the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol 2009 are now under review.

Drinking sensibly has been shown in the past to reduce the chance of a non-fatal heart attack and can even be good for the brain. The Cambridge study tried to assess how useful such guidelines really are based on the science behind them, and where the true bright line might be when it comes to figuring out relatively safe drinking limits.



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