The benefits of your evening glass of red wine are unlikely to outweigh the risks of drinking. That’s according to a new study, published by The Lancet, which supports previous research that there is no safe level of alcohol.
Researchers looked at levels of alcohol use and how it affected the health of people in 195 countries, between 1990 and 2016.
They compared people who had one, two, and five alcoholic drinks a day to those who didn’t drink at all. Out of 100,000 teetotalers, 914 would develop a disease or injury associated with alcohol consumption, like cancer. In comparison, four more people (918) would be ill or hurt if they had one alcoholic drink a day.
There were 63 more people with a problem who had two alcoholic drinks a day, and 338 more who had five drinks a day.
In the study, the authors note that moderate drinking may protect against heart disease, but the risks of cancers, liver disease, and other alcohol-related problems far outweigh any benefits.
Scientists have been looking into the possible health benefits of alcohol for a long time. Previous research has found people who drink in moderation may be less likely to die early than those who stay away from booze altogether, and that men who drink four to seven units of alcohol a week may be more fertile.
“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 Max Griswold, the lead author of the study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
“In particular, the strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for ischaemic heart disease in women in our study.”
The health risks associated with alcohol start off small, he said, but they rapidly rise as people drink more.
Globally, about 2.2% of women and 6.8% of men die from alcohol-related health problems every year. It is ranked as the seventh leading risk factor for dying early and disability worldwide in 2016.
According to the authors, governments should consider advising people to abstain from drinking entirely, or at least heavily cutting back, as the risks of death are simply too high.
“Policies focusing on reducing alcohol consumption to the lowest levels will be important to improve health,” he said. “The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising, particularly as improved methods and analyses continue to shed light on how much alcohol contributes to global death and disability.”