It's Official: Moderation Won't Save You From Alcohol's Deadly Effects

With proven links to cancer, heart disease, and more.
Mario L. Major

When it comes to alcohol, it can be difficult to know when the phrase "time to slow down" should be applied. At times, moderate alcohol intake has been considered safe and even been associated with positive effects.

That may all be thrown out the window thanks to a 2018 research. A team of scientists from the University of Washington (UW) and the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) have released a study on the effects of alcohol that reveals very scary results. 

The numbers paint a stark picture

The wide-scale study covers 16 years of data collection and analysis, covering 1990 to 2016, in a total of 195 countries. Also, to collect the largest and most comprehensive population sample possible, the researchers also used subjects ranging from as young as 15 years old to up to mid to late 90s.

Combining a total of 694 data sources together with 592 past and current studies on the subject of alcohol risk, they settled on the number of 0.35 oz (10 g) of pure ethyl as the average consumption amount. For the large job of carrying out the multi-stage study, the team partnered with more than 500 people from GBD that were based in over 40 countries. 

Based on their findings, they created a ten highest and ten lowest in three categories in 2016 (the first two categories were also divided by gender):

  • Population Average of Standard Drinks Daily
  • Prevalence, in Percentages, of Current Drinkers, All Ages
  • Alcohol-Attributable Death Rates (Per 100,000 People) - 15-49 Years, Both Sexes

The bigger picture of prevention

Armed with these findings, the consortium of researchers also put forth a detailed set of suggestions for what they see as large scale and sweeping changes in the policies implemented by different countries.

“With the largest collected evidence base to date, our study makes the relationship between health and alcohol clear – drinking causes substantial health loss, in myriad ways, all over the world,” said Max Griswold, senior researcher and lead author on the paper. 

The startling results are that there is essentially no safe level of consumption when it comes to alcohol, which is a big departure from previous information provided by health organizations that were aimed at providing a framework based on determining or defining acceptable levels of drinking

Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou, UW Health Metric Sciences Professor and a researcher who was part of the study, makes it clear that when it comes to alcohol and its effects on overall health, we are facing what is more or less a black and white issue: “The health risks associated with alcohol are massive," she said.

“Our findings are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. Zero alcohol consumption minimizes the overall risk of health loss,” she added.

Details about the study appear in a paper, titled "Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016", which was published in The Lancet journal.

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