Drinking more than recommended limits can SLASH your life expectancy

Phillip Cunningham
April 15, 2018

The study, part-funded by the BHF, compared the drinking habits of more than 600,000 people, using data from 83 separate studies.

The study found that drinking between 100-200 grams of alcohol could decrease one's life expectancy by six months, 200-350 grams by two years and more than 350 grams by four years.

Two years ago, the United Kingdom revised its moderate-drinking guidelines, reducing the limits for men to the same level as those for women.

The Australian guidelines published in 2009 are nearly a decade old and recommend "healthy men and women" drink no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

What it revealed was troubling: The people who drank more than 100 grams of alcohol a week had shorter lifespans than those who drank less than that.

Even a daily glass of wine or pint of beer significantly raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Added Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine and honorary consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, "It is hard to accurately estimate the risks of alcohol to health, but the large size and design of this study make its findings both reliable and applicable to countries around the world".

Another point of difference from these recommendations, is the study's universal threshold for a "minimum mortality risk" that doesn't discriminate between genders. "These findings underline what we have already said. But above two units a day, the death rates steadily climb", explained Professor David Spiegelhalter from the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the study.

The study's likely to be controversial, said Jason Connor and Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research in Australia. The really heaviest drinkes out there might lose as many years of life as a smoker (ten years lost), the researchers say. The participants had to be current drinkers and were followed up for at least one year (most participants were followed up for between 5 and 18 years). The researchers focused on who developed - and died from - stroke and different forms of heart disease. They stressed that the lower risk of non-fatal heart attack must be considered in the context of the increased risk of several other serious and often fatal cardiovascular diseases.

The majority of people believe that moderate drinking is actually beneficial to cardiovascular health, but the study shows that UK's new lower guideline of moderate alcohol intake is a good measure.

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 research found that drinking more than 100 grams of alcohol per week - equal to roughly seven standard drinks in the United States or five to six glasses of wine in the UK - increases your risk of death from all causes and in turn lowers your life expectancy. The risk of a stroke was 14 percent higher; heart failure 9 percent, and the risk of a fatal aortic aneurysm rose by 15 percent. And because they did not have more data from all stages of each survey participant's life, the authors conceded that they "probably under-estimated potential benefits associated with lowering alcohol consumption". It does reduce the chance of a non-fatal heart attack. During the following weeks volunteers each week used from 100 ml of alcohol.

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