Here's some sobering news: A large international study says adults should average no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and that means drinking guidelines in many countries may be far too loose.
The study found that people who down more than seven drinks a week can expect to die sooner than those who drink less.
"What this is saying is, if you're really concerned about your longevity, don't have more than a drink a day," said David Jernigan, a Johns Hopkins University alcohol researcher who was not involved in the study.
Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines say to reduce long-term health risks, no more than two drinks a day, five times a week or 10 drinks total a week for women are recommended and no more than three drinks a day, five times a week or 15 drinks total a week are recommended for men.
In the Canadian guidelines, "a drink" means:
- 341 ml (12 oz.) bottle of 5 per cent alcohol beer, cider or cooler.
- 142 ml (5 oz.) glass of 12 per cent alcohol wine.
- 43 ml (1.5 oz.) serving of 40 per cent distilled alcohol (rye, gin, rum, etc.)
Earlier studies found women are hit by the effects of alcohol at lower amounts than men for several reasons, including women weigh less than men on average and blood alcohol concentrations rise faster.
The new study estimates that 40-year-old men who drink as much as the current U.S. guidelines allow can expect to live one to two years less than men who have no more than seven drinks per week.
Some countries have much higher ceilings. Spain and Romania set the upper limit for men at the equivalent of 20 drinks each week, for example.
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British guidelines were like the U.S. standards until two years ago, when U.K. health officials brought the recommendation for men down to the level for women.
The study "is a serious wake-up call for many countries," Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation said in a statement. The group partly funded the study, which was published Thursday by the Lancet journal.