Published: Sun, April 15, 2018
Medical | By Vernon Walton

Regular Excess Drinking Could Be Shortening Your Life Expectancy

Regular Excess Drinking Could Be Shortening Your Life Expectancy

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.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines has roughly two years lower life expectancy", said David Spiegelhalter, a risk expert at Britain's University of Cambridge who was not involved in the study.

Drinking more than 12.5 units of alcohol per week (about five pints of average-strength beer or five medium glasses of mid-strength wine) was found to be associated with increased overall risk of death, stroke, heart failure, fatal aortic aneurysm, and coronary heart disease, apart from non-fatal heart attacks.

The study analysed 599,912 current drinkers in 19 countries, none of whom had a known history of cardiovascular disease, and found an increase in all causes of death when more than 100g of alcohol was consumed every week.

The authors calculated that having 10 or more drinks per week was associated with up to two years shorter life expectancy, which equates to losing 15 minutes of life for each unit above the safe amount, the equivalent of smoking a cigarette.


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association, both say men can safely drink twice a day as much as women. The Cambridge study tried to assess how useful such guidelines really are based on the science behind them, and where the true bright line might be when it comes to figuring out relatively safe drinking limits.

It's official, everyone: We're drinking too much booze, and it's cutting us short of precious life.

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.

While the US government now recommends no more than seven drinks a week for women, the recommendation for men is 14 drinks.

Most Canadians drink alcohol and, as a country, we consume more than 50 per cent above the world average. For women, the recommendation tops out at one drink per day, which is 98 grams per week. The threshold for low-risk drinking, the researchers found, is about seven beers a week for men and women alike.


The study recommended a hard-line threshold of 100 grams of pure alcohol per week, with any more than that beginning to affect longevity.

Estimated future years of life lost by extent of reported baseline alcohol consumption compared with those who reported consuming 0-≤100 g per week.

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

The authors note that the different relationships between alcohol intake and various types of cardiovascular disease can be explained, at least in part, by the effect of alcohol consumption on elevated blood pressure and on factors related to lipoprotein cholesterol.


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