Safe Alcohol Limits May Be Set Too High

Safe Alcohol Limits May Be Set Too High

Author: Marek Czykanski

Regular alcohol consumption increases the risks of liver cirrhosis, gastrointestinal disease, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and some types of cancer. Moderate alcohol consumption might reduce mortality from myocardial infarction. Therefore, many countries have low-risk limit recommendations for alcohol consumption. These limits vary substantially across different national guidelines.

Angela M. Wood and John Danesh, University of Cambridge, UK, and colleagues have found in a large survey study that these recommended limits for alcohol consumption are too high in many countries. To define thresholds associated with the lowest risk for all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease, the team studied individual-participant data from 599,912 current drinkers without previous cardiovascular disease in 83 prospective studies in 19 high-income countries.

Consuming 100 g of pure alcohol per week or less resulted in the lowest risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease. 100 g of pure alcohol is equivalent to about 0.9 L of wine or 3.1 L of beer. These data support limits for alcohol consumption that are lower than those recommended in most current guidelines.

Alcohol consumption was roughly linearly associated with a higher risk of stroke, coronary disease excluding myocardial infarction, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease, and fatal aortic aneurysm. By contrast, increased alcohol consumption was log-linearly associated with a lower risk of myocardial infarction. In comparison to those who reported drinking 0–100 g per week, those who reported drinking 100–200 g per week, 200–350 g per week, or over 350 g per week had a lower life expectancy at age 40 years of approximately 6 months, 1–2 years, or 4–5 years, respectively.


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