Drinking in excess may be just as bad as smoking, study finds

Drinking more than five glasses a wine a week could be detrimental to your health and each unit above guidelines could be as bad as smoking a cigarette.

Thursday, 3rd May 2018, 6:00 am
Cast doesn't sell Merlot by the glass.

Despite government guidelines suggesting that six glasses a week is a healthy limit, research from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation indicates this is not the case.

Scientists studied over 600,000 drinkers in 19 different countries, comparing their alcohol consumption to the occurrence of conditions such as heart attacks and strokes, and found that consuming more than five glasses of wine or pints of beer is dangerous to health - and could be knocking years off your lifespan.

Contrary to government guidelines, scientists found that the maximum safe drinking limit was around five drinks per week, or the equivalent of 12.5 units.

This works out as around five pints of four per cent beer, or five medium 175ml glasses of 13 per cent wine.

Drinking in excess of this was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal aneurysms and fatally high blood pressure.

Ten or more drinks per week could also shorten a person’s lifespan by several years. Shockingly, this is the same risk as associated with smoking a cigarette.

Researchers worked out that each unit of extra alcohol consumption takes about 15 minutes of life - which is the same as a cigarette. On average, cigarettes cost a person about 10 years of life.

However, for those who are drinking in great excess of the recommended amount of alcohol, it is possible that the heaviest drinkers could shorten their lifespan just as much as a smoker.

The UK lowered it’s guidelines in 2016, suggesting that both men and women should drink a maximum of 14 units per week. This new research suggests these recommendations may be out of touch.

So, if you already drink alcohol, consuming less is likely to help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular diseases and conditions.

This is advice worth heeding, as 7.8 million Brits admit to binging on alcohol, and those earning over £40,000 are the most likely of us to consume dangerous amounts.

The baby boomer generation is most at risk of detrimental and dangerous effects of alcohol consumption, as up to 45 per cent of alcohol-related hospital admissions are from those aged between 55 and 74.

There were more than 500,000 admissions in 2015-16, which is a tripling over the last decade. Conversely, the figures for the millennial generation have fallen dramatically.

These research findings go against several claims suggesting that drinking alcohol such as red wine may have health benefits.

While red wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, the health benefits of the beverage are likely to be outweighed its negative associations with cardiovascular disease.

It’s up to us as individuals to decide whether an extra glass of wine or pint of beer at the end of an evening may be worth the risk.