Drinking a daily glass of wine may not be so healthy after all, suggests a new study.
Drinking a daily glass of wine for health reasons may not be so healthy after all, suggests a new study.
Researchers from Washington University analysed data from more than 400,000 people aged 18 to 85 and found that consuming one to two drinks four or more times per week – an amount deemed healthy by current guidelines – increases the risk of premature death by 20 per cent, compared with drinking three times a week or less.
The increased risk of death was consistent across age groups.
“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,” said study author Dr Sarah Hartz.
“But now we know that even the lightest daily drinkers have an increased mortality risk.”
Although some earlier studies have linked light drinking to improvements in cardiovascular health, Dr Hartz said the new study shows that those potential gains are outweighed by other risks.
Her team evaluated heart disease risk and cancer risk and found that although in some cases, drinking alcohol may reduce risk of heart-related problems, daily drinking increased cancer risk and, as a result, mortality risk.
“Consuming one or two drinks about four days per week seemed to protect against cardiovascular disease, but drinking every day eliminated those benefits,” she said.
“With regard to cancer risk, any drinking at all was detrimental.”
The new study comes on the heels of research published in The Lancet, which reviewed data from more than 700 studies around the world and concluded that the safest level of drinking is none. But that study looked at all types of drinking – from light alcohol consumption to binge drinking.
The Washington University team analysis focused on light drinkers: those who consumed only one or two drinks a day.
Two large groups of people in the United States were studied: 340,668 participants, aged 18-85, in the National Health Interview Survey, and another 93,653 individuals, aged 40-60 who were treated as outpatients at Veterans Administration clinics.
“A 20 per cent increase in risk of death is a much bigger deal in older people who already are at higher risk,” Dr Hartz explained.
“Relatively few people die in their 20s, so a 20 per cent increase in mortality is small but still significant.
“As people age, their risk of death from any cause also increases, so a 20 per cent risk increase at age 75 translates into many more deaths than it does at age 25.”
Dr Hartz predicted that as medicine becomes more personalised, some doctors may recommend that people with family histories of heart problems have a drink from time to time, but in families with a history of cancer, physicians may recommend abstinence.
“If you tailor medical recommendations to an individual person, there may be situations under which you would think that occasional drinking could be potentially helpful,” she said. “But overall, I do think people should no longer consider a glass of wine a day to somehow be healthy.”
How many drinks do you consume every week? Will this study force you to reconsider your drinking habits?
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.
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