There is 'no safe level of alcohol,' says huge new global study

Pearl Mccarthy
August 29, 2018

Using 694 data sources of individual and population-level alcohol consumption, along with 592 prospective and retrospective studies on the risk of alcohol use, we produced estimates of the prevalence of current drinking, abstention, the distribution of alcohol consumption among current drinkers in standard drinks daily (defined as 10 g of pure ethyl alcohol), and alcohol-attributable deaths and DALYs.

But according to a new review of 694 existing studies on global alcohol consumption habits and almost 600 studies on alcohol and health for Lancet, no amount of drinking is good for you. And for those people who have five drinks per day, the risk was 37 percent higher.

For younger people, the biggest causes of death linked to alcohol were tuberculosis (1.4 percent), road injuries (1.2 percent) and self-harm (1.1 percent).

"Those are excess deaths, in other words, that could be avoided", she told AFP.

It now appears that the one or two drinks a couple of times a week, touted for long as moderate drinking, isn't healthy. The beneficial effects of alcohol against, for example, ischemic heart disease are smaller than its negative consequences.

Prof Saxena said: "Most of us in the United Kingdom drink well in excess of safe limits, and as this study shows there is no safe limit".

Some bad news for those who enjoy a casual drink.

"The evidence shows what the evidence shows, and I - like 2.4 billion other people on the planet that also consume alcohol - need to take it seriously".

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According to lead author Dr. Max Griswold and colleagues, alcohol consumption is the seventh leading risk factor of premature death and disability globally.

The top six killers are high blood pressure, smoking, low-birth weight and premature delivery, high blood sugar (diabetes), obesity and pollution.

The study reports that 2.8 million deaths were attributed to alcohol use in 2016 alone. For people over 50, the case was slightly different: alcohol triggered cancers.

Analysing data from 15 to 95-year-olds, the researchers compared people who did not drink at all with those who had one alcoholic drink a day.

Both were grounded in new methods that compensated for the shortcomings of earlier efforts. "Alcohol use contributes to health loss from many causes and exacts its toll across the lifespan, particularly among men". That works out to a quarter of women and 39 percent of men.

In 2016, the government cut the levels of alcohol it recommends for men and women to no more than 14 units a week - equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or seven glasses of wine.

The most abstemious nations were those with Muslim-majority populations.

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