How Much Alcohol Can You Safely Drink?
World Heart Federation Report on Alcohol and Heart Health
There are many misconceptions about the effects of alcohol on health. I want to share what the last decade of research and hundreds of studies have uncovered. The following are summaries from a few of the more significant ones.
In 2014 the CDC reported that excessive alcohol use was a leading cause of preventable death. Between 2006-2010, the CDC found that alcohol was responsible for 88,000 deaths per year in the United States. 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 was caused by alcohol.
In 2017 The BMJ study revealed that just 5-9 glasses of alcohol PER WEEK (around one glass a day) led to three times greater risk of tissue degeneration in the part of the brain responsible for memory and spatial orientation.
In 2018 The Lancet summed up the results of over 600 alcohol consumption studies. They concluded that NO level of alcohol is good for you. Alcohol was one of the top 10 risk factors for premature death in 2016.
In 2018 the American Institute for Cancer Research study came out. They found that just one small serving of alcohol a day can increase the premenopausal risk of breast cancer by 5%. Have a single drink each day after menopause, and you increase your risk of breast cancer by 9%. That study looked at just 10 grams of alcohol a day, less than a standard glass of wine or beer. When alcohol consumption increased, so did the rates of cancer.
You have been sold a lie. It is a clever marketing piece that moderate amounts of alcohol aren’t just OK; they can be good for you. Research over the last 30 years does not prove that out.
In January of 2022, the World Heart Federation released a report stating that NO amount of alcohol is good for the heart. They didn’t say you should avoid beer, mixed drinks or go easy on the red wine. They said, “Based on recent evidence, it has been concluded that there is ‘no safe level of alcohol consumption.’”
They also state clearly that in 2019 nearly 2.4 million deaths could be directly attributed to alcohol. The World Heart Federation says that alcohol increases the risk for hypertensive heart disease, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and strokes.
According to the World Heart Federation, “The alcohol industry has also perpetuated misleading information about the benefits of drinking alcohol. Alcohol industries deceptively promote their products under the labels of ‘healthy’ and ‘safe.’ Portrayal of alcohol in print and electronic media as necessary for a vibrant social life has diverted attention from harms of alcohol use.”
I’m going to repeat here what I’ve been saying for years. There are no health benefits from a daily indulgence.
Every day we make choices about our health. We choose to exercise, or not. We choose to eat healthier foods, or not. That single choice you make TODAY isn’t going to make or break your health. It’s all those small choices over time.
There’s little evidence that having a single glass of alcohol a week will cause problems. There’s quite a bit of evidence one glass a day can cause problems. There’s overwhelming evidence multiple glasses a day will cause harm.
Any alcohol should be viewed through the same lens as you would a cheeseburger or sugary dessert. For better long-term health, limit yourself to a single glass no more than once or twice a week.
It’s a free country, and you can certainly have more if you wish. But at least now you can more fully understand that there are no heart healthy benefits, only risks.
If you think you have a problem with alcohol you can contact you local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous for help. Look up locations online at aa.org.
UPDATE: Researchers determine WHY previous studies showed moderate drinking could protect your heart.
"The problem, the team of researchers from ARU and University College London suggest, is that many non-drinkers are not drinking because of current ill health, and so when they have heart attacks or other coronary issues, this is unrelated to them not drinking – and not suggestive that drinking a low or moderate amount of alcohol is protective."
In other words, regular drinkers quit drinking when they had a health problem. When that health issue turned lethal, they're listed as a "non-drinker" even though they regularly drank until they got sick. The way people were tracked was flawed. After correcting the errors, the supposed "benefit" from regular drinking went away.
Here's the study.
Alcohol – The myth of cardiovascular protection
Rudolph Schutte, Lee Smith, Goya Wannamethee
Clinical Nutrition, VOLUME 41, ISSUE 2, P348-355, FEBRUARY 01, 2022
Excessive Alcohol Use
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Public Health Professionals Gateway - Prevention Status Reports: March 17, 2014 (archived document)
Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study
Anya Topiwala, clinical lecturer in old age psychiatry, Charlotte L Allan, academic clinical lecturer in old age psychiatry, Vyara Valkanova, specialist registrar in old age psychiatry, Enikő Zsoldos, postdoctoral scientist, Nicola Filippini, postdoctoral scientist, Claire Sexton, postdoctoral scientist, Abda Mahmood, research assistant, Peggy Fooks, medical student, Archana Singh-Manoux, professor of epidemiology and public health, Clare E Mackay, associate professor, Mika Kivimäki, professor, Klaus P Ebmeier, professor of old age psychiatry
The BMJ, Published 06 June 2017 - Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2353
Do “Moderate” Drinkers Have Reduced Mortality Risk? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Alcohol Consumption and All-Cause Mortality
Tim Stockwell , Ph.D.,a,d Jinhui Zhao , Ph.D.,a Sapna Panwar , M.S.,b Audra Roemer , M.Sc.,a Timothy Naimi , M.D.,c & Tanya Chikritzhs , Ph.D.b
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Published Online: March 22, 2016 - https://doi.org/10.15288/jsad.2016.77.185
Analysing Research on Cancer Prevention and Survival
Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Breast Cancer - Continuous Update Project
World Cancer Research Fund - American Institute for Cancer Research
No level of alcohol consumption improves health
Robyn Burton, Nick Sheron
The Lancet, Published:August 23, 2018 DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31571-X
The Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Cardiovascular Health: Myths and Measures
World Heart Federation, Published: January 2022
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