Regular excess drinking can take years off your life, study finds

The recommended alcohol limit in Italy and Spain is almost 50 per cent higher than in the UK

The new study estimates that 40-year-old men who drink as much as current USA guidelines suggest can expect to live one to two years less than men who have no more than seven drinks per week. The government's health website says that while most Canadians drink in moderation, it's estimated that four to five million of them engage in "high risk drinking, which is linked to motor vehicle accidents, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and other health issues, family problems, crime and violence".

"An important message from this study is that optimal life expectancy is associated with a relatively low level of alcohol consumption - less than 100 grams per week - and that higher levels of consumption increase mortality risk", Professor Yeap said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association both say men can safely drink up to two alcoholic drinks a day and women up to a drink a day.

The upper safe limit of drinking was about five drinks per week (100g of pure alcohol, 12.5 units or just over five pints of 4% ABV beer or five 175ml glasses of 13% ABV wine).

If a 40-year-old man dropped his intake from two drinks a day to around five drinks a week, he could expect to add an average of a year or two to his life, the researchers projected.

Drinking 10 or more drinks every week was linked to one to two years shorter life expectancy.

While the US government now recommends no more than seven drinks a week for women, the recommendation for men is 14 drinks. If you don't drink wine, substitute a can of beer or a shot of liquor for each glass.

Dr Bartone said all studies showed there was no "safe level" of alcohol consumption, and European health agencies have always been advocating to keep drinking to a minimum, as it is a contributing factor to a number of cancers, liver disease and all forms of heart disease and stroke.

The researchers point out that there is no thresholds below which lower alcohol consumption stopped being associated with disease risk but that the threshold for lowest risk was 100g per week.

The more people drank, the higher the risk of a range of life threatening illnesses, including stroke and heart failure.

The data show the similar result of men and women in the amount of alcohol consumption. However, the overall effects of drinking more than seven drinks a week are more bad than good, lead researcher Wood said.

However, higher levels of alcohol were also linked to a lower risk of heart attack, or myocardial infarction.

After studying over 600,000 people from 19 countries in the world, the scientists reached a conclusion.

But there is a benefit to drinking alcohol.

"This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true", Chico said. So the researchers, led by Cambridge University's Dr. Angela Wood, used only information about people who were current drinkers "because ex-drinkers include people who might have abstained from alcohol owing to poor health itself, as well as those who have changed their habits to achieve a healthier lifestyle", they wrote.

The findings appeared in The Lancet medical journal.

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