Posted on Aug 24, 2018, 3 a.m.
About one third of the world’s population drinks alcohol, according to new analysis of global alcohol consumption and disease risk there is no amount of wine, beer, or liquor that is safe for overall health, as published in the journal The Lancet.
Alcohol was the leading risk factor for premature death and disease on both men and women between the ages of 15 to 49 globally accounting for 1 in 10 deaths according to the new study; and for all ages alcohol was associated with 2.8 million deaths in 2016 alone, deaths include alcohol related cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, intentional injury, traffic accidents, and other unintentional injuries.
It was once thought that drinking one or two a day was fine, but evidence is evidence and this study points to the contrary that even small amounts of alcohol use contributes to global health loss, and serves as reminder of the real and potentially lethal dangers that alcohol can have on health and well being. Given the pleasure associated with moderate drinking, there does not seem to be an argument for abstention, i.e there is no safe level for driving yet governments do not recommend people not drive.
Impact of alcohol on 23 health conditions and alcohol related risks were analyzed for people between the ages of 15 to 95 for the year 2016, using data collected from upwards of 1300 studies on alcohol use by country and the accompanying disease of burden measured by deaths and disability adjusted life years. Drinking under the age of 15 was not included, but is a growing issue for the USA and other countries. In this study the standard alcoholic drink was defined as 10 grams or 12 ml. Attempting to improve previous research impact of tourism on local statistics was adjusted for and attempted to control for unrecorded drinking, illicit trade, and home brewing. Conclusions of the study are clear and unambiguous, alcohol is a massive global health issue according to the researchers, who suggest policy makers put priority on programs focussing on reducing alcohol consumption.
Not surprisingly the Alcohol Information Partnership comprised of 8 of the world’s largest liquor companies say nothing in the study challenges array of studies suggesting drinking moderately is associated with decreased risk of some health issues and lower risk of death. Adding that they advocate sensible drinking and support consistent evidence based advice that enables people to make their own informed choices.
According to the 2016 Global Burden of Disease Report which captures data on premature death and disability from upwards of 300 diseases by sex and age in 195 countries and territories: It was found that 2.4 billion people drink alcohol, 25% of women who consume 0.73 per day, and 39% are men drinking an average of 1.7 drinks per day. China, India, and Russia led the world in total alcohol related deaths for both genders, not surprising due to size of populations. USA ranked 5th for men and 7th for women on the same list, with the UK ranking 21st for men and 9th for women. Countries with the lowest percentage of drinking citizens were typically Middle Eastern and Arab nations. For ages 50+ cancers were the leading cause of alcohol related deaths; road injuries, self harm, and tuberculosis as top causes of death globally.
Most deaths from alcohol came from cardiovascular disease and cancers when looking at average consumption by age and sex, the potential benefits are by far outweighed by overall risks. Research on moderate drinking results might be true in isolation, but that changes significantly when all risks are considered.
According to the researchers, while there may be some slight benefit to effects of type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, heart and circulatory health at low levels of alcohol consumption, there is much evidence in a growing body of documentation that overall health risks of drinking outweigh any benefits even at low to moderate levels; such as one study suggesting low levels of drinking lowered risks for heart attack, but also showed one drink a day could shorten life expectancy, and long term reduction in alcohol use added 1-2 years of life expectancy at age 40.
Based on this study and others the researchers conclude that at no point is there a safe level of alcohol consumption that appears to lower the overall risk of developing and of the varied and wide array of diseases investigated in comparison to not consuming alcohol. People should not drink alcohol under the belief that it will lower risk of disease, those opting to drink should minimize intake if they wish to prolong life and well being.
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