Study says limit alcohol to 1 drink a day

How much booze can you drink before it starts killing you? Not much

How much booze can you drink before it starts killing you? Not much

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines has roughly two years lower life expectancy", said David Spiegelhalter, a risk expert at Britain's University of Cambridge who was not involved in the study.

There's variation from country to country as to how many grams of alcohol are generally found in a standard drink.

Alcohol consumption was found to be associated with a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but researchers point out that this must be weighed against increased risk of potentially fatal heart disease.

Drinking between 200-350g alcohol/week would cut up to two years off, and drinking more than 350g alcohol would cut off up to five years.

It's no secret that alcohol can be bad for health in other ways, too.

Previous studies have suggested that drinking red wine can be good for our hearts, although some scientists have suggested these benefits may be overhyped.

The risk starts rising with as little as one drink a day on average.

People who do not drink at all can have worse health, also - something that can confuse consumers and doctors alike.

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"Overall, for a 40-year-old man, the estimated reduction in life expectancy is almost five years for alcohol consumption of more than 350g per week, for a 40-year-old woman it is around four years, compared to consumption of less than 100g per week".

"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 lowest mortality we observed was in people who drank less than 10 standard drinks of alcohol a week", says Professor Bu Yeap, a health researcher at the University of WA and among the more than 100 worldwide academics who co-authored the study.

What's the safest drink? They made a point of excluding people who had a known history of heart problems at the time they had entered a study.

The more people drank, the higher the risk of a range of life threatening illnesses, including stroke and heart failure.

"We have 40 years of research that shows light to moderate drinking equals improved cognitive function and memory in ageing as well as reduced chance of vascular dementia", Calder continued.

"The drinking levels recommended in this study will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol", they wrote in a commentary.

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

Jake Najman, Emeritus Professor from the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre (QADREC) at The University of Queensland, says the study suggests even modest quantities of alcohol increase the risk of earlier death.

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