Published: Sun, April 15, 2018
Medical | By Mark Scott

Just five alcoholic drinks a week could shorten your life, study says

Just five alcoholic drinks a week could shorten your life, study says

Analysis shows that approximately half of all drinkers go over the weekly recommended limit in the 19 high-income countries studied, while nearly one-in-ten people drink more than the equivalent of 21 pints of beer a week. The results applied equally to women and men.

Men in the USA are advised to drink no more than 11 glasses of wine, or pints of beer, nearly double than in the UK.

These limits are lower than the levels for many other countries, but this latest study suggests they are about right. Meanwhile, 18 drinks or more per week was linked to four to five years shorter life expectancy.

The researchers also looked at the association between alcohol consumption and different types of cardiovascular disease.

The heavier drinkers were also less likely to have a heart attack, the study found. However, greater risks from other causes of death outweighed any advantage that might bring.

The United States government now advises no more than seven drinks a week for women and 14 for men. Find out more about calculating units of alcohol.

The study "is a serious wake-up call for many countries", Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation said in a statement.

The study was covered widely in the United Kingdom media, with many outlets reporting variations on the life expectancy that could be lost for every drink or number of drinks consumed.

A standard drink contains 10g of pure alcohol and is equivalent to a half-pint of 4.5% lager, a small glass of a wine or a pub measure of spirits. The risks of drinking over the allowed weekly limit for a 40-year-old were comparable to smoking, according to the study's authors.

What kind of research was this?

It was a meta-analysis of individual-level data from 83 prospective cohort studies carried out in 19 countries. The US-government funded trial is "testing this amount [of alcohol] that appears to increase death", he says. Spiegelhalter was not involved in the research.

About half of the people included in the study said they had more than 100 grams of alcohol per week. The new study also excluded people with existing heart disease.

Around half of the almost 600,000 participants said they consumed the equivalent of more than of seven alcoholic drinks per week, while almost 10 percent reported drinking more than 25.

Drinking more than a glass of wine or beer can take years off your life, a study has found.

Although non-fatal heart attacks were found to be slightly less likely in people who drank alcohol, this benefit would be outweighed by the increased risk of other forms of heart and circulatory diseases, including heart failure and stroke.

A sweeping worldwide study of alcohol consumption has found no overall health benefits from moderate drinking and calls into question the USA guidelines that say men can safely drink twice as much as women.

This was an impressive study that analysed a lot of high-quality data.

"These figures are in line with the UK Chief Medical Officer's guidance and support previous studies which show that the lifetime risk from many cardiovascular diseases for most people who are moderate drinkers is lower than for those who drink heavily, or don't drink at all".

The findings dovetail with recent research showing that even low levels of alcohol raise the risk of cancer, particularly breast and colon cancer.

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