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Low-risk drinking can still be harmful to consumers' health

Researchers say health risks and hospitalizations are common for moderate drinkers

Photo (c) ogeday celik - Getty Images
Recent studies have highlighted the countless risks associated with consuming alcohol, including a higher risk of cancer and stroke. However, since the start of COVID-19, many consumers have been turning to alcohol to relieve stress. 

Now, a new study has found that even for those who drink moderately, alcohol can have a negative effect on health. These findings confirm those of another recent study, which emphasized that there is no “safe” amount of alcohol

“This article conducted a series of novel analyses, which estimated the proportion of alcohol-caused harms that were experienced by those drinking within and above Canadian weekly guidelines,” the researchers wrote. “Despite the comparatively high level of these guidelines, drinkers adhering to these limits were still exposed to increased hospital stays for both genders and increased mortality in men. This provides evidence toward revising high-income countries [low-risk drinking guidelines] downward.” 

What are the risks?

The researchers used Canada’s drinking guidelines for this study, which advise that men and women should limit their alcoholic drink intake to 15 and 10 drinks per week, respectively. 

To analyze alcohol intake and subsequent health concerns, the researchers utilized several different measures. They analyzed hospital data, survey responses about alcohol and substance use, and death statistics. They also utilized a model that predicts how alcohol use can lead to several different dangerous outcomes in a particular region. 

Ultimately, the team learned that many of these alcohol-related health concerns occurred when consumers were drinking within the guidelines. Their findings revealed that drinking moderately increased the risk of death, particularly for men. Nearly 40 percent of all alcohol-related deaths, and half of all cancer-related deaths, were linked to those who were drinking either less than the weekly guidelines or meeting them. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that these findings urge policymakers to reconsider where current alcohol guidelines are and discuss lowering them even further, as this study evidenced that even light drinking can be problematic for consumers’ health. 

“When it comes to alcohol use, less is better,” said researcher Adam Sherk, PhD. 

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