Study raises concerns about long-term impacts of alcohol

Bryan Strickland
April 15, 2018

The new report, published Thursday in The Lancet and boasting 120 co-authors, aggregated data from multiple studies of drinking patterns and health outcomes among almost 600,000 people in 19 high-income countries.

What exactly does that mean?

It's hardly news to hear that overdoing the booze is not good for you, but a major new study is now saying that just having an extra glass of wine regularly could be seriously damaging your health.

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The authors of the study said their findings also challenged the widely held belief that moderate drinking is beneficial to cardiovascular health, and support the UK's recently lowered guidelines.

The amount of alcohol in a standard drink varies from country to country.

"This powerful study may make sobering reading for countries that have set their recommendations at higher levels than the United Kingdom, but this does seem to broadly reinforce government guidelines for the United Kingdom", said Victoria Taylor, the Senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation.

The researchers particularly looked at cardiovascular diseases in this study.

"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 G. Blazer of Duke University, who co-authored the study.

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

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For instance, Australia doesn't offer different alcohol guidance to men and women, while many other countries do. Spain and Romania both suggest drinking as many as 20 alcoholic drinks per week for men is acceptable.

British guidelines were also similar until two years ago. "It is not possible that every country is correct; maybe they are all wrong", researchers wrote.

The new recommended 100g a week is equivalent to between five and six standard United Kingdom glasses of wine or pints of beer.

The research, which included Australian authors and data, found that drinking more than this lowered people's life expectancy at age 40 by between six months and five years.

The guidelines nations recommend for alcohol consumption are frankly all over the map.

"These guidelines form the basis of federal nutrition policy and programs and help guide local, state, and national health promotion and disease prevention initiatives", he said in an email to the NewsHour.

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

The findings dovetail with recent research showing that even low levels of alcohol raise the risk of cancer, particularly breast and colon cancer. That is when British health officials brought the upper limit for men down to the same limit as women. "Acute alcohol-related harms include alcohol poisoning, physical and (or) verbal fights and accidents". Iny 2016, with a lower legal limit, alcohol played a role in 10,400 people's deaths.

What is a standard drink? It's unclear what impact this study will have. For instance, the U.S.

In numerous individual studies included in the meta-analysis, the participants were asked only once about how much alcohol they drank - and people are notoriously bad at accurately reporting their drinking.

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