"This study makes it clear that alcohol leads to many other diseases which, in total, increase the risk of death".
The researchers calculated life would be shortened by an average of 1.3 years for women and 1.6 years for men for people aged 40 who drank above the United Kingdom weekly limit in comparison with those drinking below the limit.
"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", said Dr. Dan G. Blazer of Duke University, who co-authored the study. About 50% of the participants admitted to drinking more than 100 grams per week.
A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.
These limits are lower than the levels for many other countries, but this latest study suggests they are about right.
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The bottom line: "Any supposed benefits in health should be balanced against that shortened life expectancy", Wood said.
The lead author of the study, Dr Angela Wood, from the University of Cambridge, said: "The key message of this research is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions". The research was published in the medical journal The Lancet. The really heaviest drinkes out there might lose as many years of life as a smoker (ten years lost), the researchers say. 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.
The researchers estimated that reducing long-term drinking from the two-drink a day limit suggested by the USA government, to less than one a day, was associated with a one- to two-year boost in life expectancy in men.
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". Drinking raises the risk of both cancer and heart disease, and one study suggested that drinking accounts for 15 percent of breast cancer cases.
Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietician at the British Heart Foundation said: "This powerful study may make sobering reading for countries that have set their recommendations at higher levels than the United Kingdom, but this does seem to broadly reinforce government guidelines for the UK". By contrast, alcohol consumption was associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks. The study involved almost 600 thousand people who each week used from 100 to 350 ml of alcohol, reports the Chronicle.info with reference to Browser.
"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".