Health experts warn that no amount of alcohol consumption is safe


Health experts warn that no amount of alcohol consumption is safe

"The health risks associated with alcohol are enormous", said Emmanuela Gakidou, senior author and director at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle.

He added, "Although the health risks associated with alcohol starts off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more".

The 0.5 per cent increase in risk meant that 918 people per 100,000 who consumed one alcoholic drink a day would develop a health problem compared with 914 who did not drink. It was the leading risk factor for disease worldwide, the study found, accounting for nearly 10 percent of deaths among those ages 15 to 49.

For populations 50 and older, cancers accounted for a large proportion of alcohol-related deaths, 27.1 percent for females and 18.9 percent for males.

"When you think about it there's no safe level of doing anything".

Denmark has the highest proportion of alcohol consumers, 95.3% of women and 97.3% of men. "The myth that one or two drinks a day are good for you is just that - a myth".

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

When accounting for relative risk of drinking, researchers found that any alcohol consumption increased these risk factors and emphasized that the safest amount of alcohol is no alcohol.

According to the new study published in The Lancet, even one alcoholic drink a day is unsafe.

"Most of us in the United Kingdom drink well in excess of safe limits, and as this study shows there is no safe limit". Drinking is a risk, he says, and people should learn to accept it as such.

Top 10 countries with highest level of drinking among women Source Global Burden of Disease Study
Top 10 countries with highest level of drinking among women Source Global Burden of Disease Study

But researchers from the new study said those studies had limitations.

A global alcohol league table showed they drink around 30g of alcohol a day - or three standard drinks.

"Given the pleasure presumably associated with moderate drinking, claiming there is no "safe" level does not seem an argument for abstention", said David Spiegelhalter, the Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge.

The relatively small proportion of deaths in western European countries, in spite of the high level of alcohol consumption, can be explained by the drinking patterns, the age structure, and the beneficial impact of low-risk drinking in these countries.

The "less is better, none is best" finding jibes with the World Health Organization's long-standing position, but is at odds with many national guidelines, especially in the developed world.

Men in Romania who partake knocked back a top-scoring eight drinks a day on average, with Portugal, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Ukraine just behind at seven "units" per day.

Previous research has suggested low levels of consumption can have a protective effect against heart disease and diabetes.

Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss.

"The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising, particularly as improved methods and analyses continue to show how much alcohol use contributes to global death and disability", the team wrote.



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