Booze bad: No amount of alcohol is safe, health study warns

Frederick Owens
August 25, 2018

It's the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide in 2016, and is associated with almost one in 10 deaths, according to the study, published in the journal The Lancet.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Lancet, is one of the most comprehensive looks at the global burden of disease stemming from alcohol, with data on 28 million people from across 195 countries over a period of a quarter of a century.

The new study concluded that any beneficial effects against ischemic heart disease were outweighed by the adverse effects of alcohol on other areas of health, particularly cancers. For people ages 15 to 49, alcohol consumption was tied to 4 percent of deaths for women and 12 percent for men in 2016.

One third of the world, that is 2.4 billion people, drinks alcohol.

But the authors of the new study say just one drink a day increases the risk of developing one of 23 alcohol-related illnesses by 0.5%, when compared with not drinking at all. It was not among the top or bottom 10 for the most or the heaviest drinkers in 2016.

"The health risks associated with alcohol are enormous", said Emmanuela Gakidou, senior author and director at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle. On average, each day women consume 0.73 alcoholic drinks, while men drink 1.7 drinks, according to the findings.

At the time, England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, noted that any amount of alcohol could increase the risk of cancer.

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Ukranian women who drink were in a league of their own, putting away more than four glasses or shots every 24 hours, followed by Andorra, Luxembourg, Belarus, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Britain, all averaging about three per day. The researchers reveal that roughly three million deaths could be attributed to alcohol in just the year 2016 alone.

But a massive new global study finds that no amount of wine, beer or liquor consumption is safe for your health.

The deaths included alcohol-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, intentional injuries such as violence and self-harm, traffic collisions and unintentional injuries like drowning and fires. Drinking five drinks a day increased the statistic to 37 per cent. Although they didn't make the top 10, 85.3% of men and 81.3% of women in the United Kingdom said they had tippled in the previous 12 months. There had, however, been previous research suggesting that low levels of consumption could have a protective effect against heart disease and diabetes. "Any of these policy actions would contribute to reductions in population-level consumption, a vital step toward decreasing the health loss associated with alcohol use".

Above the two-drink level, the risks start to rise rapidly.

How risky is moderate drinking?

The Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction recommends people drink no more than two drinks a day, 10 per week for women and 15 per week for men.

Britain's health authority, for example, suggests not exceeding 14 drinks per week "to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level".

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