A drink a day could be deadly, study finds

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"Many people in the United Kingdom regularly drink over what's recommended" she said.

This increases with higher alcohol consumption, with those who have 18 drinks or more losing up to five years of life.

A sweeping worldwide study of alcohol consumption has found no overall health benefits from moderate drinking and calls into question the US guidelines that say men can safely drink twice as much as women. That's because earlier studies found women are hit by the effects of alcohol at lower amounts than men for several reasons, including that women weigh less than men on average and, therefore, their blood alcohol concentrations rise faster.

They recommend a woman consumes no more than 11 standard drinks or 110g of pure alcohol each week while men are allowed up to 17 standard drinks or 170g pure alcohol a week. Some countries have much higher ceilings. For instance, Spain and Romania set the upper limit for men at the equivalent of 20 drinks each week. That directly contradicts USA government guidelines that define moderate, "low-risk" drinking as two drinks a day for men and one drink for women, with a limit of 14 a week for men and seven for women - with lower levels for people over the age of 65.

The study's likely to be controversial, said Jason Connor and Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research in Australia.

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The global team analysed data on almost 600,000 drinkers aged 30-100, from 83 studies in 19 high-income countries. They made a point of excluding people who had a known history of heart problems at the time they had entered the study.

Drinking more than 100 grams of alcohol per week was linked with a lower life expectancy.

Alcohol guidelines vary substantially from country to country. In the United Kingdom, 100 grams is about six pints of beer a week.

Wood and her colleagues found that the threshold for health risks is 100 grams per week (about the alcohol in seven standard American beers, though craft beers have higher alcohol content).

"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.

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"This study has shown that drinking alcohol at levels which were believed to be safe is actually linked with lower life expectancy and several adverse health outcomes", co-author Dan G. Blazer of Duke University told The Lancet, which published the study Thursday. "The issue of moderate drinking and its health effects is a very important one, because the majority of people in the country drink and most of those people do so moderately".

In mice, the study revealed, the hormone regulated hydration (water drinking) in response to nutrient stress.

Another patron, Jaussi Ruotsalainen, a tourist from Finland, said he rarely drinks because he has two young kids at home. 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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