Food & Drink

One Alcoholic Drink a Day Could Drastically Shorten Your Life, According to New Study

Drinking guidelines in many countries may be far too loose, claim experts.
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Here's some sobering news: A large international study says adults should average no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and that means drinking guidelines in many countries may be far too loose.

The study found that people who down more than seven drinks a week can expect to die sooner than those who drink less.

'What this is saying is, if you're really concerned about your longevity, don't have more than a drink a day,' said David Jernigan, a Johns Hopkins University alcohol researcher who was not involved in the study.

The authors say the findings are in line with NHS recommendations that women and men drink no more than 14 units (about six glasses) a week. The NHS also advises that if you do drink this much you should spread it over at least three days.

However, while the U.S. government currently recommends no more than seven drinks a week for women, the recommendation for men is 14 drinks.

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Canada and Sweden have guidelines similar to those in the U.S. set by the Department of Agriculture. But some countries have much higher ceilings – Spain and Romania set the upper limit for men at the equivalent of 20 drinks each week, for example.

The U.K. guidelines were like the U.S. standards until two years ago, when health officials brought the recommendation for men down to the level for women.

The study 'is a serious wake-up call for many countries,' Jeremy Pearson from the British Heart Foundation said in a statement. The group partly funded the study, which was published in the Lancet.


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The research combined results from 83 studies conducted in 19 countries, tracking nearly 600,000 people who drank alcohol. The researchers focused on who developed — and died from — stroke and different forms of heart disease. They made a point of excluding people who had a known history of heart problems at the time they had entered a study.

About half the participants said they had more than 100 grams of alcohol a week. There's variation from country to country as to how many grams of alcohol are generally found in a standard drink. In Britain, that's about six pints of beer a week. But in the U.S., 100 grams is equivalent to what's in seven 12-ounce cans of beer, 5-ounce glasses of wine, or 1.5-ounce shots of rum, gin or other distilled spirits.

The researchers found a higher risk of stroke, heart failure and other problems in that group of heavier drinkers. That may partly reflect that alcohol can elevate blood pressure and alter cholesterol levels, the researchers said.

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Notably, the heavier drinkers were less likely to have a heart attack. 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.

Here's an even more exact breakdown, as a leading scientist in the field of understanding public risk, David Spiegelhalter of the University of Cambridge, told the Guardian: For a 40-year-old, every glass of alcohol above the suggested weekly limit shortens their life by 15 minutes. If a 40-year-old drinks three glasses of wine a night, for example, he loses two years of his life, according to an Esquire report.

The risk is "about the same as a cigarette," Spiegelhalter said.

Like most studies, this one has flaws. It's not built to make firm conclusions about cause and effect. Research that rolls together previous studies can be problematic if they aren't similar enough, though this one appears to have done a good job at overcoming that obstacle and combining comparable data, Jernigan said.

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Researchers relied on what participants reported drinking at the start, recognizing that many people may be under-reporting how much they actually down. And the study didn't account for any changes in their drinking habits.

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From: Cosmopolitan UK

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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