Beer drinking at the Oktoberfest Festival, September, 2014.
In the new study, published yesterday (April 12) in the journal The Lancet, researchers concluded that drinking guidelines should be lowered to a limit of 100 grams a week. The shocking findings challenge the widely held belief that moderate drinking is beneficial to heart health. Drinking increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure and a rupture in the aorta.
The findings were roughly the same for both men and women, suggesting recommended levels for both sexes should be the same.
Those in the study who drank a lot more than that had significantly higher risks of dying from any cause, including heart disease, but even going from one daily drink to two raised heart disease and mortality risks significantly.
That interpretation is not likely to be welcomed by the alcohol industry, which has embraced the idea, backed by the medical establishment, that moderate drinking may be good for you by lowering the risk of a heart attack. Professor Yeap says that the size of the study means that the trends are clearer.
Petra Meier, professor of public health at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, points out that "the health risk associated with alcohol consumption can vary between countries depending on other conditions - for example, rates of smoking, obesity or the prevalence of other underlying health problems - so it may well make sense to set country-specific drinking guidelines".
But balanced against the increased risk of a stroke and other heart problems, the impact of drinking more than seven drinks a week is more bad than good, said the study's lead author, Dr. Angela Wood of the University of Cambridge in England. Alcohol is also associated with raised risk of cancers.
This was an impressive study that analysed a lot of high-quality data. "It's important for us to be able to advise people what level of consumption is safe". "The study did not look at the effect of alcohol consumption over the life-course or account for people who may have reduced their consumption due to health complications". The safe limits are influenced by various factors such as age, gender, body weight, rate of consumption, concomitant medications etc. Instead, a little bit too much causes a little lower life expectancy.
A 40-year-old regularly drinking between 200g and 350g of alcohol per week - about 10 to 18 glasses of wine or pints of beer - had a lower life expectancy of around one to two years, researchers found. For example, life expectancy was 6 months lower among those who drank 100 to 200 grams (7 ounces) per week, and life expectancy was 1 to 2 years lower among those who drank 200 to 300 grams (10.5 ounces) per week, compared with those who drank less than 100 grams a week.
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.
"Doctors and other healthcare professionals must heed this message and transmit it to their patients".