Is alcohol as bad for you as smoking?
That is the bold statement from the latest medical study published in the Lancet medical journal.
The paper claims that drinking four units a day above the government’s current safe-drinking recommendation (of two units a day) could cut life expectancy by two years.
Go over that and the report claims that life expectancy drops by five years.
‘It’s as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, 15 minutes of life – about the same as a cigarette,’ said David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge.
The study, which looked at data from 600,000 people in 19 countries, supported the UK’s low safe-drinking limits. Set at just 14 units a week for men and women, they were introduced to a certain amount of skepticism by England's chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies in 2016.
At two units a day consumption, the report found no negative health impact. Above this, there was increased risk of both heart attack and heart disease.
It suggested that countries with higher limits, such as the US, Spain and Italy, should drop their recommended intake to UK levels.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the report received a cool reaction from the drinks industry.
‘We have 40 years of research, which shows light to moderate drinking equals improved cognitive function and memory in ageing as well as reduced chance of vascular dementia,' said James Calder from the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).
‘What about the simple, social, improvements to quality of life that being in a pub or taproom with your friends and family regularly brings to our wellbeing?’