Alcohol consumption at any level is hazardous, researchers warn

You may have heard that a little wine is good for the heart, but a new analysis of hundreds of earlier studies finds that alcohol consumption at any level seems to do more harm than good.
By Rick Docksai | Aug 28, 2018
There is no "safe" level of alcohol use, according to the authors of a new international meta-analysis of drinking and drinking-related health impacts worldwide. Their study, published this month in the medical journal Lancet, warns that alcohol consumption at any level causes more harms than benefits to health and plays a role in as many as one out of every 10 deaths among people ages 15 to 49 eatery yearmaking it the leading risk factor for people in these age ranges.

 

The authors analyzed 700 earlier studies and concluded that around 2.8 million deaths each year are attributable to drinking, more than most researchers had previously thought. Alcohol-related deaths among people ages 15 to 49 most commonly take the forms of tuberculosis, automobile accidents, and "self-harm," the study states. It found that for drinkers over 50, the largest share of alcohol-related deaths were from cancer.

Many studies over the last few decades have indicated that moderate alcohol consumption has health benefits, including better cardiovascular health and reduced incidence of some cancers. The Lancet study authors acknowledged these studies but stuck by their conclusion: "The strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases" offset any supposed health benefits of drinking, said Max Griswold, a University of Washington researcher and one of the Lancet study's authors.

Another co-author, Robyn Burton of King's College London, advises that governments raise taxes on alcohol and further restrict marketing of alcoholic beverages, especially marketing to children. Burton called alcohol a "colossal global health issue" and said that taxes would help rein in consumption-and possibly raise revenues that lawmakers could put toward improving public health.

"The solutions are straightforward: Increasing taxation creates income for hard-pressed health ministries, and reducing the exposure of children to alcohol marketing has no downsides," Burton said.

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