People who drink ‘live longer’ than those who don’t:New Research

People who enjoy the odd drink are less likely to suffer a premature death than those who don’t, according to new research. Downing up to three glasses of wine or beer a week reduces the risk of dying from any cause, and in particular cancer, over almost a decade, a study showed. But there’s a catch, scientists warned.

The risk of a deadly illness rises slightly among more regular boozers – for every drink over this amount. Current UK guidelines advise a maximum of 14 units of alcohol a week – six pints of average strength beer or seven medium sized glasses of wine.  Dr Andrew Kunzmann and colleagues said mortality rates are lower in light drinkers who have an average of less than a drink a day across their lifetime. Interestingly, those who have never touched a drop of alcohol have a 7% higher chance of earlier death or being diagnosed with cancer. The risk soars 20 per cent for very heavy drinkers who put away over three drinks a day.  Dr Kunzman, of Queen’s University Belfast, explained: ‘Previous studies have consistently found light to moderate drinkers live longer than lifetime teetotallers. ‘The evidence from cancer research gives a different impression – even light to moderate alcohol consumption is linked with an increased risk of cancer. ‘These differences have led to confusing public health messages about the health impacts of light to moderate alcohol consumption and what counts as drinking in moderation.

‘To help give a clearer message, we decided to assess both cancer and mortality outcomes together, using the same methods and same population, to see what the overall link between alcohol and these major outcomes are.” His team examined health survey data on almost 100,000 US adults aged 55 to 74 in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial who were followed for an average of about nine years.  The participants had completed a dietary survey with questions on their alcohol intake at various stages of their life. This was averaged over their adult lifetime until the start of the study. Dr Kunzmann said: ‘The lowest risk was apparent in people drinking less than seven alcoholic drinks per week, less than one drink per day – where one drink equates to about the units found in a medium strength bottle of beer – compared to never drinkers or heavier drinkers. ‘Heavier drinkers who drank more than three drinks per day were at a 20 per cent higher risk of getting cancer or dying prematurely than light drinkers.’

He said as the study, published in PLOS Medicine, was limited to older adults and socioeconomic factors were not taken into account, it should not be taken to support a protective effect of light drinking. He added: ‘Drinking alcohol is a personal choice and it is not our aim to tell people whether they can or can’t drink. Daredevil, 72, invites doctor and undertaker to his wing walk just in case ‘The aim of this study is to provide robust evidence so that people can make informed, healthy decisions about their alcohol intake. ‘We urge caution in interpreting the results comparing light drinkers to lifetime teetotallers, though, as the reasons for the reduced risk of cancer or early death in light drinkers are still being debated by scientists. ‘It has been suggested light drinking may have beneficial effects on heart health, though this has not yet been proven. ‘Light drinkers may also be at a lower risk of premature death as they tend to be wealthier, so may have better access to healthcare and may follow other healthier lifestyle behaviours, such as being more physically active.’

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