Drinking Alcohol Could Take Years Off Your Life, Study Reveals

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Heavy drinkers shave years off their lifespan.

Current alcohol consumption guidelines vary around the world - in Australia, no more than 140 grams per week (14 standard drinks) is the current recommended limit.

But the new findings, published on Friday in The Lancet, significantly undermine that claim.

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.

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

Dr Angela Wood, from the University of Cambridge, .

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.

"We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target, and try to drink well below this threshold".

The study's authors note it has several limitations, primarily that it relies on self-reported data about alcohol consumption.

The study found that drinking between 100-200 grams of alcohol could decrease one's life expectancy by six months, 200-350 grams by two years and more than 350 grams by four years.

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The upper recommended limit for men in the United States is nearly 25 units of alcohol per week.

Consuming between 200-350g per week lowered life expectancy by one to two years, and more than 350g by up to five years.

Analysis shows that approximately half of all drinkers go over the weekly recommended limit in the 19 high-income countries studied, while nearly one-in-ten people drink more than the equivalent of 21 pints of beer a week. None had a known history of cardiovascular disease.

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

On average, each unit of alcohol consumed over the 100g threshold, slices about 15 minutes off a person's life - about the same as a cigarette, David Spiegelhalter, a professor in the "understanding of risk" at the University of Cambridge said in a comment on the report.

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.

"Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and strokes".

"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 (NHMRC) says it is is reviewing the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol 2009.

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