Though we've long thought that consuming a moderate amount of alcohol (akin to a glass of wine with dinner) had some health benefits, a pair of recent studies this year has put the damper on those hopes. In April of this year, a meta-study severely lowered the risk threshold of alcohol consumption from 100 grams of pure alcohol (about what you'd find in one serving of beer or wine) per day, to only one per week.
That was followed up with a new study published this week that finds consuming any alcohol at all could negatively impact your health.
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The new study, which appeared in the medical journal The Lancet, found that consuming any amount of alcohol increases risk for death and disease. "The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising," explained the report, referencing current federal health guidelines suggesting that one glass of wine or beer each day is acceptable. "Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none."
Alcohol consumption ranked as the seventh-leading risk factor for premature death and holistic disabilities across the world in 2016. Each year more than 2.8 million deaths can be attributed to alcohol consumption in any form.
The meta-study, by a team of researchers at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, was published after a review more than 690 previous studies. Though previous analyses of these studies have been done, these researchers were able to more accurately account for population-level consumption by adjusting for consumption by tourists, and for unrecorded population-level consumption, to better estimate drinking levels and risk. What they found was that the risks of alcohol consumption were much higher, and much steeper than previously estimated.
The study's authors indicate that the links between alcohol and cancer, injuries, and other diseases far outweigh any positive benefits associated with reducing heart disease or other ailments.
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For those between the ages of 15 and 49, alcohol consumption played a role in 1 in 10 deaths, according to the report. Causes of death as influenced by alcohol included suicide, tuberculosis, and automotive-related injuries. For those over 50, cancer was the leading cause of alcohol-related deaths, responsible for approximately 27 percent of all female deaths and 19 percent of deaths in men.
The Lancet's report incorporates more evidence than many other pieces of scholarly work published—it's just one piece of the Global Burden of Diseases project, a large-scale research initiative analyzing causes of illness and death headed up by academics at the University of Washington.