26 Years Of Data Concludes Healthy Amount Of Alcohol Consumption Is ‘Zero’

26 Years Of Data Concludes Healthy Amount Of Alcohol Consumption Is ‘Zero’
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Science flip-flops on the health benefits of alcohol as much as it does coffee. The latest research? Booze is bad, bad, bad, no matter what — or how much of it — you’re ingesting. Is it time to give up that one glass of red a night?

Thanks to data from the 2016 Global Burden of Disease Study, researchers were able to gather data for “195 locations from 1990 to 2016”, inclusive of men and woman, aged between 15 and 95.

With this data, it was possible to “[produce] estimates of the prevalence of current drinking [habits] … and alcohol-attributable deaths” as well as conduct “a new meta-analysis of relative risks for 23 health outcomes associated with alcohol use.”

The conclusion is pretty succinct — and damning:

Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss. We found that the risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption, and the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero.

These results suggest that alcohol control policies might need to be revised worldwide, refocusing on efforts to lower overall population-level consumption.

The statement that the “level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero” doesn’t leave much to interpretation. It’s possible future research — even using the same study — could come up with an opposing conclusion, but for now, this result is rather definitive, given the weight of data.

Why I Don't Drink Alcohol Any More

The worst part about not drinking is having to tell people you don't drink. It's difficult because drinking usually occurs at a time when it's socially acceptable to drink; situations where not drinking is a little bit strange. On a Friday night after work. Someone's leaving their job. Maybe someone's celebrating?

Read more

Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 [The Lancet, via The Guardian]


  • So what about all the studies about red wine reducing the risk of heart disease? Are they saying that those studies were actually wrong? I’ve also seen studies about whiskey that said it had health benefits what about them?

    • The studies linking red wine consumption and lower risk of cardiovascular disease aren’t invalidated by this study – because it might well reduce the risk of CV disease, but increase the risk of other serious problems where alcohol is a contributing factor. Importantly you can reduce your risk of CV disease through adequate physical exercise and a balanced diet, and if you lack either of those red wine not only won’t save your heart but will contribute to other problems.

      What this study actually demonstrated, after reviewing and controlling a huge amount of data, was that where people consumed alcohol, their burden of disease increases significantly. Whether alcohol is part of the pathogenesis of their particular mortality or merely a contributing factor isn’t determined – just that where alcohol consumption increased (or was even present), people were sicker.

      That isn’t to say that you will die early or get sicker if you have one standard drink every day, because this is a population-level study and there’s significant variance between individuals. But from a public health perspective, any alcohol consumption could potentially contribute to poor health.

      On the other hand – the quality of evidence supporting red wine being beneficial in cardiovascular health is somewhat limited, and even then the recommended amount needed is small. If you’re knocking back 2-3 glasses every night after work, you’re actually contributing to your risk, not reducing it. The proposed mechanism for red wine being protective is via cholesterol control, but that ignores the fact that alcohol is otherwise bad for you.

  • This study is probably valid but literally tells us nothing of value. What it tells us is that people in counties that ban alcohol or counties where the local culture frowns on alcohol consumption are less likely to die from alcohol related events. What a nugget of information that is!

    What the study doesn’t tell us is how many lives alcohol consumption saves because of people lowering their anxiety and stress and having a drink with people at the end of the day. I would imagine if you could measure that metric you’d find alcohol probably saves more lives than it ends.

    This kind of one eye’d science study is so dangerous. You can prove just about anything by taking a blinkered world view and look at something in isolation.

    It’s dangerous because exactly this type of extreme opinion becomes a fountain of truth to the unthinking masses. Whoever wasted their time formulating it should hang their head in shame.

  • …or put another way, the number of heart beats we have in our lifetime is a finite amount averaged across all human beings. Those who exercise more will have more heart beats over time and thus be speeding towards death faster than a couch potato. Exercise is bad….we should stop exercising

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