Drinking more alcohol leads to lower life expectancy, research finds

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The worldwide study, published in the Lancet journal, also found drinking more alcohol gave a greater risk of suffering a stroke, heart failure, and fatal aneurysm.

"Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and stroke".

Drinking between 200-350g alcohol/week would cut up to two years off, and drinking more than 350g alcohol would cut off up to five years.

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

Otago University Professor Jennie Connor, of the Department of Preventative and Health Medicine, who researches alcohol and its effects, said the study showed New Zealand's drinking guidelines should come down.

United Kingdom guidelines were changed in 2016 to 14 units every week for men and women, lower than the limits in Italy, Portugal and Spain.


The booziness of drinks is measured by standard alcohol units - in other words the amount of the drink that has 10 grams of pure alcohol in it.

"Alcohol consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious, and potentially fatal, cardiovascular diseases".

A large global 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.

Drinkers who ignore alcohol consumption guidelines could be cutting years off their lives, researchers say.

"This study has shown that drinking alcohol at levels which were believed to be safe is actually linked with lower life expectancy and several adverse health outcomes", says Blazer.

In comparison to those who reported drinking less than 10 standard drinks (or five pints) a week, those who said they consumed between 10 and 20 per week, 20 and 35 per week, or more than 35 per week had an estimated lower life expectancy at the age of 40 of approximately six months, between one and two years and, four to five years, respectively. Alcohol is also associated with raised risk of cancers.


For these conditions, there were no clear risk thresholds below which lower alcohol consumption stopped being associated with lower disease risk.

The authors of the study, funded by various institutions including the UK Medical Research Council, said recommended alcohol limits should be lowered to around 100g or 12.5 units per week in many countries.

"Secondly, there has been a fiction, used by the alcohol industry to maintain nearly unrestrained advertising for its products, that small quantities of alcohol are beneficial, even healthy (reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease)".

"Until then, the 2009 Alcohol Guidelines remain NHMRC's current advice".

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