Study casts doubt on the benefits of light drinking

Leslie Hanson
October 6, 2018

Although the study did find an association, it did not prove that light drinking caused early death risk to rise.

Previous research has suggested benefits to the heart from a daily drink, ascribed variously to beneficial anti-oxidants in red wine, reduced chance of blood clots or simply its stress-relieving properties as a social lubricant.

Only last month, a research published in The Lancet, which reviewed data from more than 700 studies around the world, concluded that the safest level of drinking is none.

"It used to seem like having one or two drinks per day was no big deal, and there even have been some studies suggesting it can improve health", says one of the study's authors, Dr. Sarah M. Hartz, an assistant professor of psychiatry and big-time party pooper.

Professor Sarah Hartz, of Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, said: 'This report demonstrates an association between increased mortality and drinking behaviours that falls within the current US dietary guidelines for "healthy" alcohol use.

Researchers at the University of Arizona School of Medicine have previously stated that drinking wine within safe limits can promote good cardiovascular health and prevent cognitive decline. Specifically, drinking four or more times weekly, even if it's only 1-2 drinks at a time, increases risk of mortality.

"A 20 percent increase in the risk of death is a much bigger deal in older people who already are at higher risk", Hartz added. However, there were heart benefits for people who had just a few glasses a week, lowering their risk of early death from cardiovascular disease by around 25pc compared to those who drank nothing, while only raising cancer risk by around 8pc.

Researchers found those who had one or two drinks four or more times per week were 20 percent more likely to die prematurely.

The latest study found the 20 per cent risk increase in all age groups.

This rose to seven percent for people who consume two drinks per day and spiked to 37 percent for those who down five drinks.

Any potential protective effects against CVD are eliminated with regard to increased detrimental risks. The authors pointed out that drinkers in their 20s and 30s whose mortality rates are actually lower might not be particularly concerned about a 20 per cent increase in this risk, it could help inform age-targeted drinking guidance.

Therefore, healthcare providers might advise people at risk of developing heart problems to drink on occasion.

"If you tailor medical recommendations to an individual person, there may be situations under which you would think that occasional drinking potentially could be helpful", said Dr Hartz.

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