Alcohol limits too high

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Researchers also warned that anyone who necks more than 18 drinks a week could end up losing four to five years of their lives.

The United States government now advises no more than seven drinks a week for women and 14 for men.

Strikingly, the data did not show a significant difference between men and women in the amount of alcohol that can be consumed without a drop in life expectancy.

In 2016, the United Kingdom changed its national guidelines for alcohol consumption, reducing the recommended daily limit for alcohol.

However other countries reportedly still have much higher limits than the UK.

Some countries have much higher limits, however.

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There's a transatlantic difference of opinion about drinking limits for men and women. The decision was hotly debated and criticized at the time, but the new study supports the maximum of 14 units a week for both men and women set out by England's chief medical officer.

But many countries have drinking guidelines that consider 100 grams of alcohol a week to be well within the range of "safe" drinking.

Several Australian studies were part of this collaboration, contributing to the research and making the findings relevant to Australians. The researchers focused on who developed - and died from - stroke and different forms of heart disease.

About half of the people included in the study said they had more than 100 grams of alcohol per week.

There are some health benefits to be gained from drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, but science cautions that it will start negatively affecting your health past a certain threshold.

The upper safe limit of drinking was about five drinks per week (100g of pure alcohol, 12.5 units or just over five pints of 4% ABV beer or five 175ml glasses of 13% ABV wine).

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Alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal aortic aneurysms, fatal hypertensive disease and there were no clear thresholds where drinking less did not have a benefit. That may partly reflect that alcohol can elevate blood pressure and alter cholesterol levels, the researchers said. "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".

Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, reckons the study is proof that drinking lots and getting away with it is "too good to be true".

The study may mean many Americans are reaching their weekly totals in one night. It's not built to make firm conclusions about cause and effect. It was a meta-analysis of individual-level data from 83 prospective cohort studies carried out in 19 countries.

Jake Najman, Emeritus Professor from the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre (QADREC) at The University of Queensland, says the study suggests even modest quantities of alcohol increase the risk of earlier death.

"We have 40 years of research that shows light to moderate drinking equals improved cognitive function and memory in ageing as well as reduced chance of vascular dementia", Calder continued.

"That takes care of it", he said.

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The Associated Press reported this story. The AP is exclusively responsible for all content.