It’s increasingly looking like the reported health benefits of drinking alcohol (hello, French paradox) is another case of something being too good to be true. A large international investigation published in The Lancet in April studied data from nearly 600,000 current drinkers in 19 countries. Researchers found that drinking about 100 g of alcohol—around five pints of beer or five 175-milliter glasses of wine—per week is the safe upper limit.
Consuming more than that raises the risk of early death from cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart failure. The report’s most worrisome finding is the effect on life expectancy at age 40: It shrinks by 6 months for drinkers who imbibe 100–200 g of alcohol per week, by 1–2 years for those consuming 200–350 g per week, and by 4–5 years when alcohol intake tops 350 g weekly.
The study authors concluded that countries like Italy and the United States, where the recommended weekly limit for men is nearly double what this study shows is safest, should revisit their guidelines and reduce them.
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