Consuming more than five drinks a week could shorten your life
Regularly drinking more than the recommended UK guidelines for alcohol could take years off your life, according to new research from the University of Cambridge.
Part-funded by the British Heart Foundation, the study shows that drinking more alcohol is associated with a higher risk of stroke, fatal aneurysm, heart failure and death.
The authors say their findings challenge the widely held belief that moderate drinking is beneficial to cardiovascular health, and support the UK's recently lowered guidelines.
The study compared the health and drinking habits of over 600,000 people in 19 countries worldwide and controlled for age, smoking, history of diabetes, level of education and occupation.
The upper safe limit of drinking was about five drinks per week (100g of pure alcohol, 12.5 units or just over five pints of 4% ABV beer or five 175ml glasses of 13% ABV wine). However, drinking above this limit was linked with lower life expectancy.
For example, having 10 or more drinks per week was linked with one to two years shorter life expectancy. Having 18 drinks or more per week was linked with four to five years shorter life expectancy.
The research, published today in the Lancet, supports the UK's recently lowered guidelines, which since 2016 recommend both men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week. This equates to around six pints of beer or six glasses of wine a week.
However, the worldwide study carries implications for countries across the world, where alcohol guidelines vary substantially.
The researchers also looked at the association between alcohol consumption and different types of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal aortic aneurysms, fatal hypertensive disease and heart failure and there were no clear thresholds where drinking less did not have a benefit.
By contrast, alcohol consumption was associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks.