Just one alcoholic drink a day could shorten your life, study says

A man drinking beer

A man drinking beer

They found that the more people drank, the higher their risk of death compared with people who drank less.

For example, USA guidelines recommend that men drink no more than 196 grams (7 ounces) per week, or 14 standard drinks.

The team found no evidence supporting a lower alcohol limit for women than for men.

The study found similar results for men and women and pointed out that people aged 40 who consume 200-350g per week could increase their life expectancy by up to three years if they halved their alcohol consumption. Some countries have much higher ceilings.

"Recommended limits in Italy, Portugal and Spain are almost 50 percent higher than this, and in the US, the upper limit for men is nearly double", the researchers found.

Victoria Taylor, Senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, said: "This powerful study may make sobering reading for countries that have set their recommendations at higher levels than the United Kingdom, but this does seem to broadly reinforce government guidelines for the UK".

University of Texas Southwestern researchers, in their study, have identified a hormone that acts on the brain to increase the desire to drink water in response to specific nutrient stresses that can cause dehydration.

The new report, published Thursday in the Lancet and boasting 120 co-authors, aggregated data from multiple studies of drinking patterns and health outcomes among almost 600,000 people in 19 high-income countries.

A major worldwide study of nearly 600,000 people found those drinking more than five 175ml glasses of wine or pints of beer each week were at greater risk of stroke, heart failure and fatal aneurysm.

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

But many countries have drinking guidelines that consider 100 grams of alcohol a week to be well within the range of "safe" drinking.

There's variation from country to country as to how many grams of alcohol are generally found in a standard drink. In the United Kingdom, 100 grams is about six pints of beer a week.

A standard drink contains 10g of pure alcohol and is equivalent to a half-pint of 4.5% lager, a small glass of a wine or a pub measure of spirits.

"Alcohol consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious - and potentially fatal - cardiovascular diseases". That may partly be due to the fact that alcohol can elevate blood pressure and alter cholesterol levels, the study said. The aggregated data did show that moderate drinking is associated with a lower risk of nonfatal heart attacks.

Dr Angela Wood, from the University of Cambridge, lead author of the study said: "If you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions".

The study may mean many Americans are reaching their weekly totals in one night. And the study didn't account for any changes in their drinking habits. Shawn Freeman, visiting from St. Louis, said other things such as his mood and whether he'll be driving, influence how much he drinks.

"That takes care of it", he said.

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