A drink a day could be deadly, study finds

The recommended alcohol limit in Italy and Spain is almost 50 per cent higher than in the UK

In one experiment, the researchers found that normal mice and mice genetically unable to produce FGF21 drank similar amounts of water when given the typical chow diet.

The upper safe limit of drinking was about 5 drinks per week (100g of pure alcohol, 12.5 units or just over five pints of 4 per cent ABV2 beer).

Men in the U.S. are advised to drink no more than 11 glasses of wine, or pints of beer, nearly double than in the UK.

The findings support recently lowered guidelines in the United Kingdom, which recommend that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units or 112g of pure alcohol in a week.

"Recommended limits in Italy, Portugal and Spain are almost 50 percent higher than this, and in the U.S., the upper limit for men is nearly double", the researchers found.

"Guideline developers tend to recognise that, in line with many other voluntary behaviours, drinkers are likely to be willing to accept some level of risk and have set guideline thresholds accordingly", she said. The Lancet study, however, found no evidence to support different guidelines for women and men. "The lowest mortality we observed was in people who drank less than 10 standard drinks of alcohol a week", says Professor Bu Yeap, a health researcher at the University of WA and among the more than 100 worldwide academics who co-authored the study. Analysis shows that approximately half of all drinkers go over the weekly recommended limit in the 19 high-income countries studied, while nearly one-in-ten people drink more than the equivalent of 21 pints of beer a week.

The study also found that alcohol consumption was linked to a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but experts said "on balance" there are no health benefits from drinking.

However, "this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious - and potentially fatal - cardiovascular diseases", said lead author Angela Wood from the University of Cambridge in Britain.

"This study has shown that drinking alcohol at levels which were believed to be safe is actually linked with lower life expectancy and several adverse health outcomes", says Blazer.

"Nonetheless, the findings ought to be widely disseminated and they should provoke informed public and professional debate". Mathematical calculations have shown that a 40 year old man who takes around 10 to 20 standard drinks per week shortens his life expectancy by six months.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund recommend in a joint report that people limit alcohol.

"Evidence reviews on the health effects of alcohol consumption are now underway, which will help inform the recommendations in the revised guidelines", a spokesman says.

Health Promotion Agency policy research and advice general manager Cath Edmondson said the current guidelines would be reviewed next year.

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