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Trending Science: No amount of alcohol is safe for your overall health, says international study

No liquor, wine or beer is safe to drink, according to a study on global alcohol consumption and disease risk.
Trending Science: No amount of alcohol is safe for your overall health, says international study
The international medical journal ‘The Lancet’ recently published some sobering worldwide estimates for 2016 that are sure to surprise even the most moderate drinkers. Alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women aged 15-49, responsible for nearly 1 in 10 deaths. For all ages, alcohol accounted for 2.8 million deaths, including cancer, cardiovascular and infectious diseases, intentional injury and traffic accidents.

A large international team of researchers mined data from the 2016 Global Burden of Disease report. The study presented information on premature death and disability from over 300 diseases by sex and age in 195 countries or territories for the period 1990-2016. They analysed the impact of alcohol on 23 health conditions and alcohol-related risks on people aged 15-95.

No alcohol is the only safe amount of alcohol

Researchers found that a third of all people worldwide drink some type of alcohol. That includes 39 % of men and 25 % of women. It’s no surprise that China, India and Russia lead in the total number of alcohol-related deaths in both sexes because of their large populations. They also observed that out of 100 000 non-drinkers, 914 would develop an alcohol-related health problem. However, an extra four people would be affected if they drank one alcoholic drink a day.

With 2 alcoholic drinks consumed a day, 63 more people developed a condition within a year. For those who had 5 drinks daily, there was an increase of 338 people who developed a health problem. The team found no evidence that light drinking might help keep people healthy and said there’s no evidence that drinking any alcohol at all improves health.

“The most surprising finding was that even small amounts of alcohol use contribute to health loss globally,” senior study author Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), told ‘CNN’. “We're used to hearing that a drink or two a day is fine. But the evidence is the evidence.”

“Previous studies have found a protective effect of alcohol on some conditions, but we found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increases with any amount of alcohol,” said lead author and IHME colleague Dr Max Griswold in a ‘BBC’ interview. “The strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for heart disease in our study.” He added: “Although the health risks associated with alcohol start off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more.”

The study recommends actions that governments should take to discourage drinking. Politicians and key actors need to change the counsel and assistance they offer citizens and take into account taxes and other measures.

Regardless of where we live on this planet, it appears that drinking problems and their consequences are a major cause for concern. But convincing people of that will be the biggest hurdle of them all, especially since alcohol is such an important part of culture around the world.

Source: Based on media reports

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