Exceeding recommended alcohol limits cuts years off your life

A man drinking beer

The researchers found that the more alcohol a person consumed, the higher their risk of stroke and heart failure.

Drinkers who ignore United Kingdom alcohol consumption guidelines could be cutting years off their lives, according to new research.

Men in the U.S. are advised to drink no more than 11 glasses of wine, or pints of beer, nearly double than in the UK.

"An important message from this study is that optimal life expectancy is associated with a relatively low level of alcohol consumption (less than 100g per week), and that higher levels of consumption increase mortality risk", said Bu Yeap, a professor from the University of Western Australia and a co-author of the study, in a statement.

"The take home message is this: less is probably better".

While the study also found alcohol consumption was linked to a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks, experts said "on balance" there are no health benefits from drinking.

"Guideline developers tend to recognise that, in line with many other voluntary behaviours, drinkers are likely to be willing to accept some level of risk and have set guideline thresholds accordingly", she said.

The study's recommendations are significantly less than what many countries recommend as an alcohol consumption limit.

They found the upper safe limit of drinking before there was an increased risk of death was around 12.5 units a week - the equivalent of about five pints of low strength beer or five 175ml glasses of above average strength wine.

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In the U.S., for example, the guidelines for men set an upper limit of nearly 25 units. "The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines has roughly two years lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life". They recorded 40,310 deaths and 39,018 cardiovascular disease events among the group's members.

"Nonetheless, the findings ought to be widely disseminated and they should provoke informed public and professional debate".

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Cambridge and was published in The Lancet journal.

However, "this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious - and potentially fatal - cardiovascular diseases", said lead author Angela Wood from the University of Cambridge in Britain.

A NEW GLOBAL health study of almost 600,000 drinkers has concluded that recommended weekly alcohol consumption should be lower than Ireland's current level.

"The data make it even clearer that the alcohol industry is promoting a misleading view that alcohol use is benign", he says.

The National Health and Medical Research Council is now undertaking a revision of the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol 2009.

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