Regular light drinking increases risk of premature death: study
Consuming one to two alcoholic drinks four or more times per week increases the risk of premature death by 20 per cent, according to a new study from the Washington University School of Medicine. (Jonathan Austin Daniels/istockphoto.com)
Published Thursday, October 4, 2018 1:10PM EDT
New U.S. research has found more evidence to suggest that light drinking may not be good for us after all, finding that a daily glass of wine may increase the risk of premature death.
Carried out by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the new large-scale study analyzed data from more than 400,000 people ages 18 to 85.
The findings, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, showed that consuming one to two alcoholic drinks four or more times per week, which is classed as healthy in 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 also consistent across all age groups.
Previous research has suggested that some moderate drinking may actually be beneficial for health, with a U.K.-led study which looked at nearly 100,000 participants finding that the risk of death and developing some cancers is lowest in light drinkers who have consumed an average of one drink per day or less across their lifetime, while an international research team led by the Medical University of Vienna in Austria found that a glass of red wine a day could reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer by around 12 per cent. Researchers at the University of Southern California also came out in support of moderate drinking at the beginning of 2018, saying alcohol can decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease, as well as reduce the risk for all causes of death, although only when enjoyed in moderation.
However, other studies have found that what is currently thought to be a safe, and possibly even beneficial amount of alcohol, may not be good for us after all. Research published earlier this year in the medical journal The Lancet also found that even just the occasional glass of wine or beer increases the risk of health problems and dying, and that any protective effect of alcohol was offset by the risks. The health risks also increased as the amount of alcohol consumed increased.
"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 Dr. Sarah M. Hartz, lead author of the new research. "But now we know that even the lightest daily drinkers have an increased mortality risk."
The team did find that in some cases drinking alcohol may reduce risk of heart-related problems, however, as daily drinking increased cancer risk and, as a result, mortality risk, the team concluded that daily drinking, even at low levels, is detrimental to health.
"Consuming one or two drinks about four days per week seemed to protect against cardiovascular disease, but drinking every day eliminated those benefits," said Hartz. "With regard to cancer risk, any drinking at all was detrimental."
"A 20 per cent increase in risk of death is a much bigger deal in older people who already are at higher risk," 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."