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Is It Time To Rethink Alcohol Guidelines? Research Suggests New Threshold For Low-Risk Drinking, And It's Not That Much

The current guidelines suggest an alcohol consumption limit of about 196 grams per week. According to a new study, the limit might best be kept below 100 grams per week to lower all-cause mortality.   ( Frederic J. Brown | AFP/Getty Images )

The findings of a new study suggest that the current government guidelines regarding the upper limit for low-risk alcohol consumption might still be too high in terms of alcohol's adverse health benefits. Is it about time to review the national guidelines?

Large-Scale Study

A new study on alcohol consumption questions the supposed health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption as well as the amount of alcohol consumption that is still considered low-risk for men and women. Evidently, there may be a need to reconsider the currently held guidelines.

The study, published in The Lancet, was authored by over 120 researchers who gathered their data from multiple studies involving the health outcomes of nearly 600,000 individuals from 19 high-income countries. Each of the participants had no previous record of having cardiovascular disease and were categorized into eight groups based on their weekly alcohol consumption in grams.

Does Alcohol Shorten People's Lives?

Researchers found that while moderate drinking does lower the risk for nonfatal heart attacks, that "health benefit" is entirely offset by the increase in association with major cardiovascular problems such as stroke, fatal hypertensive disease, heart failure, and aortic aneurysm. In addition, researchers also confirmed the link between alcohol consumption and certain cancers such as breast cancer and digestive system cancers.

The study findings reveal that upon consuming beyond 100 grams of alcohol per week, the life expectancy of an alcohol drinker may drop dramatically. Specifically, those who reported drinking between 100 and 200 grams of alcohol had a six month lower life expectancy by age 40 compared to individuals who reported drinking between zero and a hundred grams of alcohol, while individuals who reported consuming between 200 and 350 grams and over 350 grams of alcohol per week had one to two years and four to five years lower life expectancy by age 40.

Basically, the findings show that under the current guidelines, the supposed health benefits of alcohol are offset by its adverse health effects and may even lower the life expectancy of a drinker. Further, researchers also found no significant difference between men and women regarding life expectancy drop related to alcohol.

US Guidelines On Low-Risk Drinking

In the United States, the current guidelines for low-risk drinking has an upper limit of about 196 grams of alcohol consumption per week for men and 98 grams of alcohol consumption per week for women. These guidelines run similar to those of Canada and Sweden, but other countries such as Italy and Spain have thresholds that are 50 percent higher, while the guideline recommendation for men in the UK is almost half the US recommendations.

With the results of the study in mind, researchers surmise that perhaps the United States' guidelines may be in need of a revision, wherein the upper limit for men is lowered to be the same as the women's threshold at just near 100 grams. This way, the public may be alerted that what they believe to be low-risk drinking practices could still have potentially dire health consequences.

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