Having just one alcoholic drink per day 'shortens your life', study finds


"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. (For women, US guidelines fall within these recommended amounts, at no more than 98 grams a week.) In Canada, guidelines recommend no more than 136 grams (4.8 ounces) per week for women, and no more than 204 grams (7 ounces) per week for men.

"This study provides clear evidence to support lowering the recommended limits of alcohol consumption in many countries around the world", co-author Professor Edoardo Casiglia said in the conclusion of the report.

Compared to drinking under 100 grams of alcohol per week, drinking 100 to 200 grams was estimated to shorten the life span of a 40-year-old by six months. Those in the study who drank a lot more than that had significantly higher risks of dying from any cause, including heart disease, but even going from one daily drink to two raised heart disease and mortality risks significantly.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in La Crosse County.

"Many people in the United Kingdom regularly drink over what's recommended" she said.

Where did the story come from?

The researchers were surprised to see the new independent pathway of FGF21.

It was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet on an open-access basis so is free to read online.

The new research does not suggest that a drinker who has just a little too much every day is falling off an epidemiological cliff.

The "safe" limit of drinking before the risk of death increased is around 12.5 alcohol units per week - the equivalent of around five pints of beer. A March study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found about one in six Americans binge drink weekly, downing roughly seven drinks per outing. There's also no agreed classification for the size of a glass of wine.

The study uses self-reported alcohol consumption across 19 high-income countries.

What kind of research was this?

The researchers collected 83 individual studies from 1964 up to 2010, including one from Erasmus MC.

"What it shows is that the amount of alcohol consumed affects the risk of dying", says Yeap.

What did the research involve?

The authors noted that the different relationships between alcohol intake and various types of cardiovascular disease may relate to alcohol's elevating effects on blood pressure and on factors related to elevated high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) (also known as "good" cholesterol).

The worldwide team of researchers analyzed almost 600,000 people aged 30-100 from 19 different countries as part of 80 different studies. Among the almost 600,000 studied, there were 40,310 deaths and 39,018 cardiovascular-disease incidents in at least 12 months of follow-up work.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

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.

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.

"We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target".

Does Alcohol Shorten People's Lives?

The work regarding cardiovascular disease and heart attacks is useful and challenges the widespread belief that alcohol reduces the risk of cardiovascular conditions.

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

The study did have a couple of limitations that are worth noting.

But many countries have drinking guidelines that consider 100 grams of alcohol a week to be well within the range of "safe" drinking.

The researchers noted that the study tracked people's alcohol consumption for at least a year but did not examine the effect of alcohol consumption over a person's entire lifetime.