While light drinking was found to reduce the risk of heart-related problems, a new study suggests daily drinking eliminates said benefit, increasing one’s mortality risk in the process.
A research team from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that daily drinking increases one’s cancer risk, which in turn, increases the risk of premature death. The study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research journal yesterday, Oct. 3.
The team analyzed the data from 340,668 National Health Interview Survey participants ages 18 to 85 and additional 93,653 participants ages 40 to 60 who were treated as outpatients at Veterans Administration clinics in the United States. The research focused on light drinkers — people who consume only one to two drinks a day.
The study affirmed earlier studies stating light drinking improves cardiovascular health. However, daily drinking increases one’s mortality risk as a result of increased cancer risk.
“Consuming one or two drinks about four days per week seemed to protect against cardiovascular disease, but drinking every day eliminated those benefits,” the study’s author and assistant professor of psychiatry, Sarah M. Hartz said in a statement. “With regard to cancer risk, any drinking at all was detrimental.”
Researchers found out “healthy” drinking — consuming one to two alcoholic beverages four or more times per week — increases the risk of premature death by 20 percent in comparison to those who drink three times a week or less. The increased mortality death remained consistent throughout all age groups included in the study.
“A 20 percent increase in risk of death is a much bigger deal in older people who already are a higher risk,” Hartz said in a statement. “Relatively few people die in their 20s, so a 20 percent increase in mortality is small but still significant. As people age, their risk of death from any cause also increases, so a 20 percent risk increase at age 75 translates into many more deaths than it does at age 25.”
“It used to seem like having one or two drinks per day was no big deal, and there even have been some studies suggesting it can improve health,” she noted. “But now we know that even the lightest daily drinkers have an increased mortality risk.”