A drink a day could be deadly, study finds

New research suggests even the Department of Health's strict new guidelines are too high

New research suggests even the Department of Health's strict new guidelines are too high

The study, published in The Lancet, estimated how many years alcohol might slash off your life. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette. Italians, Portuguese and Spanish drinkers are warned that consuming more than around nine glasses of wine could be risky.

An analysis of more than half a million drinkers worldwide suggests alcohol consumption should be limited to below 100g - just under 10 standard Australian drinks - over seven days. The researchers focused on who developed - and died from - stroke and different forms of heart disease.

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.

"Evidence reviews on the health effects of alcohol consumption are now underway, which will help inform the recommendations in the revised guidelines", a spokesman says.

Previous studies have suggested that drinking red wine can be good for our hearts, although some scientists have suggested these benefits may be overhyped.

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Having as little as one alcoholic drink a day could shorten your life, according to a major new study.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund recommend in a joint report that people limit alcohol.

But they said drinking at all levels increased the risk of cardiovascular illnesses. "The lowest mortality we observed was in people who drank less than 10 standard drinks of alcohol a week", says Professor Bu Yeap, a health researcher at the University of WA and among the more than 100 global academics who co-authored the study.

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

What's the safest drink? "There are old studies from the 1970s suggesting that this pathway might regulate thirst".

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"We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target, and try to drink well below this threshold", said Victoria Taylor, a senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation.

"The drinking levels recommended in this study will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol", wrote Professors Jason Connor and Wayne Hall from the University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, Australia.

The study urged countries to change their recommendations to no more than 100 grams of alcohol per week, or roughly seven drinks in the U.S. More than that starts to whittle your life by months and years, the researchers found.

"Nonetheless, the findings ought to be widely disseminated and they should provoke informed public and professional debate".

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