Drinking more alcohol linked to lower life expectancy, research finds

Cheryl Sanders
April 15, 2018

But in the USA, 100 grams is equivalent to what's in seven 12-ounces cans of beer, 5-ounce glasses of wine, or 1.5-ounce shots of rum, gin or other distilled spirits.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states excessive alcohol use leads to, among other afflictions, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Abstainers and former drinkers are often much less healthy than those in the general population who drink moderately, but they've often been included in studies comparing drinkers to non-drinkers. He told The Guardian that previous evidence shows it is likely that people drinking a lot more than 43 units are likely to lose even more life expectancy, and he would not be surprised if the heaviest drinkers lost as many years of life as a smoker.

Go over that and the report claims that life expectancy drops by five years. That's about the same risk as from a cigarette, David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, explained in a statement. "Of course it's up to individuals whether they think this is worthwhile".

What did the research involve?

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

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Nowcomes a huge study spearheaded by the UK's University of Cambridge published in The Lancet this week. They include Italy, Portugal and Spain as well as the USA, where for men the recommended limit is nearly double.

Researchers also looked at the link between heart disease and alcohol intake.

Alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal aortic aneurysms, fatal hypertensive disease and there were no clear thresholds where drinking less did not have a benefit. None of the drinkers had a history of cardiovascular conditions. The aggregated data did show that moderate drinking is associated with a lower risk of nonfatal heart attacks.

Angela Wood, who is the lead author of the study and senior lecturer at the University of Cambridge told The Washington Post, "When the US reviews their guidelines, I will hope they would use this as evidence to consider lowering the guidelines for men probably in line with female guidelines".

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In spite of the massive number of participants, the study was limited in a number of ways.

Estimated future years of life lost by extent of reported baseline alcohol consumption compared with those who reported consuming 0-≤100 g per week. Participants were enrolled in the study between 1964 and 2010.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

To get there, they analyzed 83 studies on alcohol consumption pulled from a variety of worldwide studies spanning nearly 50 years and 19 countries, allowing them to compare the effects on multiple different "subtypes in current drinkers of alcohol".

Research from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation, which looked at 600,000 drinkers across the world, discovered that anything more than five glasses of wine, or pints of beer, is unsafe to health, and could be knocking years off a person's lifespan.

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