Boffins spoil the party for moderate tipplers
If you're knocking back more than five a week, you could be shortening your life, they say
Moderate drinkers in South Africa may feel loftier than their heavy-drinking counterparts, but according to a new study just published in the Lancet, moderate drinkers are far from off the hook.
A higher risk of stroke, fatal aneurysm, heart failure and death are in the mix of even those few drinks that sit above recommended amounts.
The authors, at the University of Cambridge, point out that these findings challenge widely held beliefs that moderate drinking outperforms non-drinking when it comes to cardiovascular health.
So, for those who’ve proudly been raising a glass to the win-win of drinking their way to better health, this comes as a major wake-up call.
The study focused on a large sample of 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries, and has major implications for a country like South Africa.Earlier this year, two researchers at the University of Cape Town, Nicole Vellios and Corne van Walbeek, found that in South Africa “one in three individuals reported drinking alcohol, while one in seven reported binge drinking on an average day on which alcohol was consumed”.
They said “strong, evidence-based policies were needed to reduce the detrimental effects of alcohol use”.
According to the World Health Organisation, of the 48 countries in the African region, South Africa “had the highest per capita alcohol consumption (in terms of pure litres of alcohol) by individuals over 15”.
Vellios and Van Walbeek said South Africa had a “particularly harmful pattern of drinking” and said that, in a single year, alcohol-related homicide and violence, alcohol-related traffic accidents, alcohol-related disorders and foetal alcohol syndrome were responsible for about 7% of all deaths.
So when does one call it quits between the drudgery of Monday morning and the Sunday night blues?The authors of the study in the Lancet say “the upper safe limit of drinking was about five drinks per week”.
Once you cross that line, lower life expectancy rears its head in an incremental way.
For example: “Having 10 or more drinks per week is linked with one to two years shorter life expectancy, while having 18 drinks or more per week was linked with four to five years shorter life expectancy,” they explain.
Dr Angela Wood, lead author of the study, said: “The key message of this research is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions.”
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, said: “This is a serious wake-up call for many countries.”