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A drink a day could be deadly, study finds

14 April 2018

A team of global researchers studied the drinking habits of nearly 600,000 current drinkers included in 83 studies across 19 countries where about 50% reported drinking more than 100 grams per week and 8.4% more than 350 grams per week.

The study also found that alcohol consumption was linked with an increased risk of stroke or heart failure, as well as an increased risk of death from hypertensive disease (high blood pressure) or an aortic aneurysm.

The new study estimates that 40-year-old men who drink as much as current US guidelines suggest can expect to live one to two years less than men who have no more than seven drinks per week.

'This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette.

'Of course it's up to individuals whether they think this is worthwhile'.

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Research from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation, which looked at 600,000 drinkers across the world, discovered that anything more than five glasses of wine, or pints of beer, is risky to health, and could be knocking years off a person's lifespan.

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

Although the study did find that drinking alcohol was associated with a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks, experts said that "on balance", drinking alcohol has no health benefits. 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.

Although the pool of data was extensive, information about alcohol consumption was self-reported, so the study's findings are limited.

People who do not drink at all can have worse health, also - something that can confuse consumers and doctors alike.

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Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, reckons the study is proof that drinking lots and getting away with it is "too good to be true". Abstainers and former drinkers are often much less healthy than those in the general population who drink moderately, but they've often been included in studies comparing drinkers to non-drinkers.

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"We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target". It might be wine, sipped a little at a time, the study suggested. Estimates show that a person who drinks around 7 to 14 cans of beer per week with each can being around 1.4 standard drink, the risk of death rises by 5 percent compared to those who drank lesser.

What it revealed was troubling: The people who drank more than 100 grams of alcohol a week had shorter lifespans than those who drank less than that.

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. But this study also suggests that whatever level you drink at, even if it's under the guidelines, drinking even less will help reduce your health risks. "Nonetheless, the findings ought to be widely disseminated and they should provoke informed public and professional debate".

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A drink a day could be deadly, study finds