No amount of alcohol — not even 1 glass of wine — is safe, global study says
There is no amount of liquor, beer or wine that is safe for your overall health, according to a new global study.
The study, published in the Lancet on Friday, said alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 across the world in 2016, accounting for nearly one in 10 deaths. That same year, alcohol was associated with 2.8 million deaths.
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The deaths included alcohol-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, intentional injuries such as violence and self-harm, traffic collisions and unintentional injuries like drowning and fires.
Although previous studies have found that light-to-moderate drinking can reduce heart disease, the researchers said alcohol is still likely to do more harm and the safest level of drinking is none.
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“Previous studies have found a protective effect of alcohol on some conditions, but we found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increases with any amount of alcohol,” lead author of the study Dr. Max Griswold, at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington said.
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“The strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for heart disease in our study.”
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For people over the age of 50, cancers were the leading cause of alcohol-related deaths. They were responsible for 27.1 per cent of alcohol-related deaths of women and 18.9 per cent of men in 2016.
Griswold said that although the health risks associated with alcohol start off being small with one drink a day, they rise rapidly as people drink more.
For example, having one “standard drink” (10 grams of alcohol, equivalent to a small beer or glass of wine) per day can increase your risk of developing at least one of two dozen health problems but about 0.5 per cent, the study found.
The health risk increased to seven per cent for people who consumed two drinks a day and soared to 37 per cent for those who drank five drinks.
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The study suggested that governments should think of advising people to abstain from alcohol.
The Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction recommends people drink no more than two drinks a day, 10 per week for women and 15 per week for men.
How many people are drinking?
One in three, or 2.4 billion people around the world, drink alcohol, the study shows.
Among men, drinking alcohol in 2016 was the most widespread in Denmark, along with Norway, Argentina, Germany and Poland. Pakistan had the fewest male drinkers.
Among women, Denmark also ranked first, followed by Norway, Germany, Argentina and New Zealand. Bangladesh had the fewest women drinking.
Men in Romania and women in Ukraine drank the most — 8.2 and 4.2 drinks per day respectively.
The Lancet study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used data from the 2016 Global Burden of Disease report, which looked at levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries, between 1990 and 2016.
Researchers looked at data from 15- to 95-year-olds and compared people who did not drink at all with those who had one alcoholic drink a day.
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