Men who drink alcohol moderately risk ‘increased mortality,’ hospitalization: study

Photo: Unsplash/Bence Boros

A recently published study on alcoholic consumption found that even moderate drinkers will experience a higher rate of mortality and hospital stays than those who drink less or abstain.

Researchers headed by Professor Adam Sherk of the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada, recently examined safe drinking guidelines in the North American country.

In a study published Monday, the researchers concluded that drinking both within and above national guidelines posed serious health risks for both men and women.

“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,” concluded the researchers.

“If national drinking guidelines are based on aligning risks between drinkers and abstainers, our study suggests limits of approximately 12 g per day for men and 17 g per day for women.”

The study explained that many countries have low-risk drinking guidelines (LRDGs) on alcohol consumption, with North American standards generally being higher compared to other regions.

“Adherence to guidelines did not eliminate alcohol-caused harm: those drinking within guidelines nonetheless experienced 140 more deaths and 3,663 more hospital stays than if they had chosen to abstain from alcohol,” stated the researchers.

“A weighted relative risk analysis found that, for both women and men, the risk was lowest at a consumption level of 10 g per day. For all levels of consumption, men were found to experience a higher weighted relative risk than women.”

The study centered on British Columbia and drew from data collected in 2014 by the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s Discharge Abstract Database and the Canadian Substance Use Exposure Database.

Researchers noted that one limitation of their study was that "the estimation of acute injuries based on average weekly consumption presents a potential source of inaccuracy," noting that "someone drinking seven drinks per week could have one per day or seven on Saturday night."

"As a result, it is possible that our approach overestimates/underestimates the prevalence of alcohol use within weekly guidelines," they added. 

"This would lead to a higher/lower proportion of harm being experienced by those drinking within the guidelines; therefore, these findings should be interpreted with some caution."

Over the years, scientific research has offered conflicting evidence on whether drinking alcohol, even in moderate amounts, was beneficial to one’s health.

For example, a 2017 study by Danish researchers concluded that drinking alcohol three to four days a week lowers the risk of diabetes compared to those who drink alcohol once a week.

"Our findings suggest alcohol drinking frequency is associated with risk and that consumption over three to four days a week is associated with the lowest risk of diabetes, even after taking average weekly alcohol consumption into account," said Professor Janne Tolstrup of the University of Southern Denmark.

However, another study from 2017 reported on by the BMJ Company found that drinking alcohol, even in moderate levels had “adverse brain outcomes including hippocampal atrophy.”

“The finding that alcohol consumption in moderate quantities is associated with multiple markers of abnormal brain structure and cognitive function has important potential public health implications for a large sector of the population,” concluded the study.

“Alcohol might represent a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, and primary prevention interventions targeted to later life could be too late.”  

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