Posts tagged with "Winston Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at University of Cambridge"

You ‘just may be toast’ if you drink to someone’s health

August 30, 2018

If you drink the wine or spirits that you are using to propose a toast, you” just may be toast,” based on findings of study published in The Lancet  on August 23 and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

As the Daily Beast reported this week, researchers at the University of Washington-Seattle, along with global collaborators, have established that the only safe amount of alcohol is no alcohol—which might be confusing since you’ve probably heard about the antioxidants in wine, or how beer is supposedly good for your gut.

The researchers did a meta-analysis of 694 data sets collected between 1990 and 2016 on alcohol consumption; as well as 592 studies on the health risks of alcohol use.

The study posted on The Lancet found that consuming 10 grams of alcohol (about half a shot) per day was the leading risk for death and disease for both men and women between the ages of 15 and 49.

In fact, they concluded that alcohol is the source of one in 10 deaths around the world, killing an estimated 2.8 million people globally in the 25+-year time period.

“The most surprising finding was that even small amounts of alcohol use contribute to health loss globally,” senior study author Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluationtold CNN on August 24. “We’re used to hearing that a drink or two a day is fine. But the evidence is the evidence.”

This certainly isn’t the first time that alcohol has been associated with health problems. But it’s not necessarily the final word for those trying to figure out if a glass of rosé at dinner every night is a good or bad idea.

The analysis finds that alcohol is a contributor to various conditions and diseases that can lead to death. For one thing, alcohol use has been associated with a weaker immune system, which can affect the body’s ability to fight cancer. In other words, the study doesn’t claim that drinking alcohol in moderation will kill you; it’s simply associated with death and disease.

And that’s key because alcohol consumption—when controlled—has been shown in some other reputable studies to potentially be helpful, particularly when it comes to wine. Moderate drinking has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks,

As David Spiegelhalter, the Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, told CNN for the same story: “Given the pleasure presumably associated with moderate drinking, claiming there is no ‘safe’ level does not seem an argument for abstention. There is no safe level of driving, but governments do not recommend that people avoid driving. Come to think of it, there is no safe level of living, but nobody would recommend abstention.”

Gakidou told CNN that she was aware of the studies that showed better health with moderate drinking, but believed strongly that alcohol was almost universally a problematic health issue.

“We, to,o found some protective effects for Type 2 diabetes and ischemic heart disease at low levels of alcohol consumption,” she told CNN. “But those benefits are outweighed by the overall adverse health impact of alcohol, even at moderate levels.”

Since current research hasn’t settled the matter, one course of action is to follow the guidelines set by the U.S. government. That’s one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men with no binge-drinking. And if you don’t drink? Keep up the good work.

Research contact: gakidou@uw.edu