Depressing New Research Finds There May Be No 'Safe' Level of Alcohol Use

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If there was ever going to be a good time to ignore science, this might be it. A massive new study published in The Lancet has concluded that there is no safe or recommended level for alcohol consumption.

The Bill and Melinda Gates-funded Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle looked at data involving 28 million people in 115 countries from 1990 to 2016. Unlike some previous studies, researchers examined self-reported data about alcohol consumption as well as alcohol sales information to determine the prevalence of imbibing among populations. Among other conclusions, researchers found that drinking one alcoholic drink a day increases the risk of developing an alcohol-related health problem by 0.5 percent within a year compared to not drinking at all. The study defined alcohol-related conditions to involve everything from cancer and tuberculosis to traffic accidents or falls.

That may not sound like much, but according to Sonia Saxena, a researcher at Imperial College and one of the authors of the paper, it can be extrapolated into a sizable health problem. "One drink a day does represent a small increased risk,” she told the BBC, “but adjust that to the UK population as a whole, and it represents a far bigger number, and most people are not drinking just one drink a day."

With two drinks a day, the chance of experiencing health problems increased to 7 percent compared to non-drinkers. If you’re at five drinks per day, the risk rose to 37 percent.

The report contradicts longstanding beliefs about alcohol use, namely that moderate intake could ward off heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and other ailments. Researchers concluded that the potential risks of drinking offset the potential health benefits.

It could be argued there is no completely risk-free level of driving, walking, or living, either. Researchers who were not involved in the study have observed that its conclusions represent only a modest increase in risk relative to both benefits and personal enjoyment of alcohol consumption.

[h/t BBC]