HSE alcohol limits may still put drinkers' health at risk

New research suggests even the Department of Health's strict new guidelines are too high

Germany also has varying suggestions for limits on alcohol consumption: 12 grams of alcohol, about one drink, for women per day and twice as much for men.

"But above two units a day, the death rates climb".

The global team analysed data on almost 600,000 drinkers aged 30-100, from 83 studies in 19 high-income countries. Spain and Romania set the upper limit for men at the equivalent of 20 drinks each week, for example. 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 findings from the study are in line with United Kingdom guidance which was recently lowered to 6 glasses a week for men and women.

Canada and Sweden have similar guidelines as the United States, but some countries have much higher limits. This new study shows that it isn't.

Tracy Parker from the British Heart Foundation says any positive health effects of drink are relatively minor.

Wood and her colleagues did not find an overall health benefit. The common explanation is that alcohol can boost high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol, which can be protective against arterial blockages.

"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". The new study confirmed an association between drinking and cancers of the digestive system.

"The drinking levels recommended in this study will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol", wrote Professors Jason Connor and Wayne Hall, University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, in a commentary for The Lancet. The UK levels might be in tune with what this study suggests is safe.

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But they said drinking at all levels increased the risk of cardiovascular illnesses. The effects of alcohol on health are very complicated.

It's official, everyone: We're drinking too much booze and it's cutting us short of precious life.

Another Danish study found drinking three to four times a week was linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. But as the drinker ventures further beyond the threshold, the life expectancy continues to erode in dramatic fashion.

The more people drank, the higher the risk of a range of life threatening illnesses, including stroke and heart failure.

Drinking the equivalent of 100-200g of pure alcohol a week shortened life expectancy by about six months compared to drinking less than 100g, found the study.

"Doctors and other healthcare professionals must heed this message and transmit it to their patients".

Experts said it challenged the idea that light drinking was good for us.

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