Drinking more alcohol linked to lower life expectancy, research finds

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'The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines has roughly two years lower life expectancy, which is about one twentieth of their remaining life'.

The study found similar results for men and women and pointed out that people aged 40 who consume 200-350g per week could increase their life expectancy by up to three years if they halved their alcohol consumption. But balanced against the increased risk of a stroke and other heart problems, the impact of drinking more than seven drinks a week is more bad than good, said the study's lead author, Dr. Angela Wood of the University of Cambridge in England.

Recommended alcohol limits in many countries should be lowered to around 100g/week for men and women, according to an analysis of data from almost 600,000 current drinkers in 19 countries published in medical journal, The Lancet.

The UK's recommended safe drinking limits state that men and women should not indulge in more than 14 units of alcohol, or about six glasses, in a week.

"What this is saying is, if you're really concerned about your longevity, don't have more than a drink a day", said David Jernigan, a Johns Hopkins University alcohol researcher who was not involved in the study. For example, having 10 or more drinks per week was linked with one to two years shorter life expectancy.

The U.S. government recommends women drink no more than seven drinks a week and 14 for men.

We've all heard about how drinking a glass of red wine with dinner can be beneficial to heart health.

"Higher alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk of heart attack, but higher risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart events". It does reduce the chance of a non-fatal heart attack. Those limits are based on earlier studies that found women are more affected by alcohol than men.

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A 40-year-old drinking half a dozen 6 ounce glasses of wine a week is considered a safe limit, researchers said.

Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation, a group that partially funded the study, said in a statement that it "is a serious wake-up call for many countries".

"This study completely overlooks the well-documented health benefits light to moderate enjoyment of alcohol brings", said James Calder, head of communications for the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA). They include Italy, Portugal and Spain as well as the USA, where for men the recommended limit is nearly double.

Professor Tim Chico, of the University of Sheffield, added: "I would not be surprised if the heaviest drinkers lost as many years of life as a smoker".

For the new study, the researchers analyzed information from 599,912 people in high-income countries who drank alcohol but did not have heart disease at the study's start.

Researchers studying alcohol consumption and mortality have advised countries like the USA slash their drinking guidelines.

Of course, Victoria Taylor has a good point, saying that we should consider the guidelines as a limit, not a target!

These sobering findings come from a massive new study published this week in The Lancet medical journal.