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By Ackerman Cancer Center

04/23/2018

Limiting Alcohol Consumption May Boost Life Expectancy

Limiting alcohol intake to one drink a day may increase longevity, according to a large international study that recently appeared in The Lancet medical journal.

Combining results from 83 studies conducted in 19 countries, researchers looked at the health data of nearly 600,000 people who drank alcohol. Focusing on those who developed, and later died from, stroke and heart disease after entering the studies, they discovered that individuals who consume more than seven drinks a week are likely to die sooner than those who drink less.

Approximately half of the study participants had more than 100 grams of alcohol per week, the equivalent of seven 12-ounce cans of beer, 5-ounce glasses of wine or 1.5-ounce shots of hard alcohol.

Heavier drinkers were found to have a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal aneurysms and fatal hypertensive disease, although they were less likely to have a heart attack.

Current U.S. guidelines recommend a maximum of seven drinks a week for women and 14 drinks a week for men. That recommendation is based on previous studies that found women experience the effects of alcohol sooner than men due to lower body weight and faster rising blood alcohol levels.

Study authors estimate the average 40-year-old male who consumes the recommended maximum number of alcoholic drinks a week is likely to reduce life expectancy by approximately two years, as compared to males who indulge in seven or fewer drinks per week. The reduction in life expectancy works out to around one hour per day. 

An article published in the Washington Post in 2014 found that among American adults aged 18 and over, 30 percent didn’t drink at all, while an additional 30 percent consumed an average of less than one drink per week. However, the article revealed the top 10 percent of American adults drink an average of 74 drinks per week, slightly more than 10 drinks per day.

The worldwide study indicates that, once again, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote, “moderation in all things,” appears to be sound advice.

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