Several studies in recent years claimed alcohol was good for the body in moderation. But a landmark study published in the Lancet concludes “the safest level of drinking is none.” Alcohol consumption is the leading health risk factor for people ages 15 to 49. The latest study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation addressed and corrected several limitations found in earlier research that claimed low levels of alcohol consumption could have a protective effect on heart disease, diabetes, and several other outcomes. Those studies were limited by small sample sizes, inadequate controls and non-optimal choices of a reference category for calculating relative risk. Because of these problems, the older, incorrect studies yielded false results.
This new, comprehensive study (as well as more recent studies) are increasingly demonstrating that there are no protective effects of drinking on all-cause mortality or cardiovascular outcomes.
The researchers stated, “Our results on the weighted attributable risks are consistent with this body of work. Taken together, these findings emphasize that alcohol use, regardless of amount, leads to health loss across populations.”
The study concluded with a proposal for countries around the world to revisit alcohol control policies and health programs and to consider recommending abstention from alcohol. Failure to act “poses dire ramifications for future population health in the absence of policy action today.” The mortality crisis in Russia was used as a striking example of how alcohol use was the primary culprit of increases in mortality starting in the 1980s and led to 75% of deaths among men aged 15-55 years.
Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for disease burdens worldwide, accounting for nearly 10% of global deaths among populations aged 15-49. Men are three times as likely to be victims of this disease than women. They concluded, “Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none.” We definitely agree! Eliminating alcohol consumption is just one way to improve overall health. In my book I discuss many other effective things we can also do to improve the quality of our lives.
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