Question of the Month

Is it time to cut out alcohol?

By IDEA Authors
Jan 15, 2019

Do you think the recent body of evidence linking even modest alcohol intake to shorter lifespan will change your drinking habits?

Previously, we reported on a huge international study published in The Lancet that was enough to give us pause the next time we considered enjoying a second glass of wine: Any level of drinking above 100 grams of alcohol (3.75 ounces) per week was found to raise heart disease risk and shorten lifespan, and the safest level of drinking was shown to be “none.”

Now comes more sobering news: Using data gleaned from 340,668 individuals from the National Health Interview Survey and 93,653 individuals from the Veterans Health Administration outpatient medical records, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that consuming one to two alcoholic drinks more than three times a week raises the risk for all-cause mortality by about 20%, according to an October 2018 study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Yes, you read that right: If you simply drink 1 pint of beer or a single glass of wine more days of the week than not, you face a higher risk of premature death, especially from cancer. Any drinking at all was determined to be detrimental with respect to cancer risk and canceled out the potential heart-health benefits associated with very light drinking. Alarmingly, recent research shows that about 13% of American adults take part in high-risk drinking, defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on at least 1 day of the week. What’s more, this percentage seems to be on the upswing, according to research published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Faced with this data about the health dangers of even light drinking, are you considering scaling back your intake? Do you counsel clients about the risks of drinking as part of their overall health program? Do you think an active lifestyle can diminish some of the negative consequences of light drinking? Send your responses to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]

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