Study says no amount of alcohol is safe, but expert not convinced

A new analysis of the global impact of alcohol on injury and disease concluded that even moderate drinking is unsafe for health. Recently published in The Lancet, the study found that alcohol was the seventh leading risk factor for premature death in 2016, and that it contributed to 2.8 million deaths worldwide—2.2% of all female deaths and 6.8% of all male deaths that year.

Compared with non-drinkers, people who had one drink per day had a 0.5% increased risk of developing one of 23 alcohol-related health problems ranging from road injuries to breast cancer to tuberculosis, according to the study. This amounts to only about four additional deaths per 100,000 people per year worldwide, but the risks increase with every daily drink consumed. Those who drank five drinks per day increased their risk of health problems by 37% compared with non-drinkers.

While the authors suggested that these risks outweigh any potential health benefits from moderate drinking, Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said he’s not convinced.

He told Time in an August 24, 2018 article that while there is “no question” that heavy drinking is harmful, there are plenty of data supporting the benefits of moderate drinking. He also said that it is misleading to lump the entire world together when assessing alcohol’s risk. “Our decisions about drinking in the United States shouldn’t be influenced by what alcohol does to tuberculosis,” he said.

Willett added that there are risks and benefits of alcohol consumption and said it’s “important to have the best information about all of those and come to some personal decisions, and engage one’s health care provider in that process as well.”

Read the Time article: A New Study Says Any Amount of Drinking Is Bad for You. Here’s What Experts Say

Learn more

Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits (The Nutrition Source)

Alcohol in moderation can be good for the heart (Harvard Chan School news)

Blacks may not receive same health benefits from moderate alcohol drinking as whites (Harvard Chan School press release)