Alcohol is a leading cause of death, disease worldwide, study says

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Bad news for those who enjoy what they think is a healthy glass of wine a day.

The researchers from the University of Washington say alcohol leads to 2.8 million deaths a year, and it is the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability in the 15 to 49 age group, accounting for a whopping 20% of deaths.

Drinking alcohol in moderation is more harmful than previously thought, according to a new study that concludes there's no "safe" level of alcohol consumption.

Analysing data from 15 to 95-year-olds, the researchers compared people who did not drink at all with those who had one alcoholic drink a day.

The risk of developing alcohol-related health problems increased to 7 per cent in people who drank two drinks a day for one year and 37 per cent in people who drank five drinks a day for one year.

They found that the modest improvements in heart health associated with light drinking are more than offset by the increased risk of other conditions including breast cancer and cancer of the larynx, as well as violence and vehicle accidents.

"Although the health risks associated with alcohol start off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more".

The Global Burden of Disease study looked at levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries, including the United Kingdom, between 1990 and 2016. According to the study, almost 10% of global deaths of people aged 15-49 in 2016 were because of alcohol use and it is leading risk factor for premature death and disability among that particular age group.

While in 2016, drinking alcohol was the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disease, in people aged 15-49 years old, alcohol was the leading risk factor, with nearly four per cent of deaths in women and 12.2 per cent of deaths in men attributable to alcohol.

"There is no safe level of alcohol", Max Griswold, lead author and IHME researcher, told the AFP news agency.

David Spiegelhalter, professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, said: "Claiming there is no 'safe" level does not seem an argument for abstention. "Now its more like two thirds in homes, and its men and women equally, by and large", he said.

There are multiple causes of death related to alcohol drinking and is associated with tuberculosis, road injuries, self harm and cancers.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Robyn Burton of King's College London calls the research "the most comprehensive estimate of the global burden of alcohol use to date".

There had, however, been previous research suggesting that low levels of consumption could have a protective effect against heart disease and diabetes. For people over 50, cancers were cited as a leading cause of alcohol-related death (about 27 percent of deaths in women and 19 percent of deaths in men).

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