No safe level of alcohol consumption, global study finds

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There is no safe level of alcohol consumption, according to a major global study.

Researchers in the US have pooled data from nearly 600 studies and found the benefits of drinking alcohol are outweighed by the harm it causes.

Previous research has indicated one drink a day for women and two a day for men was a safe level which could protect against heart disease.

But the authors of the new study say just one drink a day increases the risk of developing one of 23 alcohol-related illnesses by 0.5%, when compared with not drinking at all.

The research was published in The Lancet medical journal.

Lead researcher Dr Max Griswold, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said: “Previous studies have found a protective effect of alcohol on some conditions, but we found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increase with any amount of alcohol.

“In particular, the strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for ischaemic heart disease in women in our study.

“Although the health risks associated with alcohol start off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more.”

A standard alcohol drink was defined as containing 10g of alcohol, or one unit. A pint of beer is two units.

The team used a statistical method to estimate the risks of consuming between zero and 15 alcoholic drinks a day.



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Every year 2.2.% of women and 6.8% of men die of alcohol-related health problems including cancer, tuberculosis, and liver disease.

Globally, drinking alcohol is the seventh-leading risk factor for premature death and disease.

The study found that for people aged 15-49, alcohol was the most important risk factor, account for 3.8% of women’s deaths and 12.2% of men’s.

For those aged over 50, cancer is the leading cause of alcohol-related death.

The 0.5% increase means that 918 people in every 100,000 who drink one unit a day would develop a health problem compared with 914 who do not.

Andy Ramage of One Year No Beer, told Sky News: “Years of clever marketing, powerful flavours and pet names have created a disconnect with the essence of the alcoholic drink, which is ethanol.

“My personal view is that we will see a plethora of studies that suggest there is no safe level of alcohol consumption in the exact same way as there will never be a safe level of smoking tobacco.

“What’s great about these studies is that the layperson is starting to feel empowered that they can make an educated choice about how much or whether they drink at all.”

Lucy Rocca, founder of Soberistas, an online forum to help people stay sober, told Sky News: “I don’t think it’s realistic [for everyone to be sober].

“I didn’t drink moderately, so over the years the negative impacts of my alcohol intake overtook the positive so I stopped.

“I think alcohol is ingrained in our society, so to make the decision to not drink is really bold.

“I’ve not drunk for seven years, and I feel much better, I’ve lost weight, it’s better for my mental health.

“I can’t see negatives associated with no drinking.”

She added that those who are able to drink moderately are making their own choices based on their experiences.

Wine expert Joe Wadsack told Sky News: “The report makes salient points. If you are planning for fewer people to be ill in a country as a whole, then you have to look at it statistically.

“I think it comes down to a person by person basis.

“If you’re drinking because you are in a group where you are having one or two bottles of wine in a social setting it’s hard to say ‘I might have a problem’, because others will then say ‘if you have one, I must do too’ and it’s hard to talk about that.

“People should enjoy it if they do, rather than habitually having it everyday.”

Denmark has the highest proportion of alcohol consumers, 95.3% of women and 97.3% of men.

Men in Romania and women in Ukraine drink the most, 8.2 and 4.2 drinks per day respectively.



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