Moderate drinking won’t harm you, some medical leaders have said previously. But a new study disputes that claim and spells out how alcohol kills.
It may be particularly hard to hear in Kentucky where bourbon is an $8.5 billion industry.
According to the report published in the Lancet medical journal, alcohol led to 2.8 million deaths globally in 2016 and was the seventh leading risk factor for death. The 2.8 million deaths equates to 6.8 percent of all male deaths in 2016 and 2.2 percent of all female deaths, the report shows.
Researchers at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation based their analysis on nearly 700 studies on drinking and 600 studies on alcohol and health. The authors called it “the most comprehensive estimate of the global burden of alcohol use to date.”
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For people over the age of 50, cancers were the leading cause of alcohol-related deaths, and for those ages 15 to 49, tuberculosis, self-harm and road injuries were the top causes of alcohol-related deaths, the study showed.
“The conclusions of this study are clear and unambiguous: alcohol is a colossal global health issue,” the author of the study said.
The study showed about 1 in 3 people drink alcohol; men consuming 1.7 drinks each day and women an average of 0.73 drinks per day. There are much higher risks for disease and death with more drinks consumed, according to the study.
Those who had two drinks per day had a 7 percent higher risk for death than non-drinkers. And for those people who have five drinks per day, the risk was 37 percent higher.
Before the Lancet study, drinking alcohol was touted as a route to better health.
According to a 2016 Mayo Clinic article, moderate drinking could reduce risk of developing and dying from heart disease, possibly reduce the risk of diabetes and ischemic stroke.
Guidelines for moderate drinking are one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65 and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 or younger.
But not so fast, said the authors of the new study.
“The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising, particularly as improved methods and analysis continue to show how much alcohol use contributes to global death and disability,” according to the study. “Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none.”