On Thursday, a buzzkill review was published in the medical journal The Lancet stating that, get this, drinking alcohol is bad for you, and drinking no alcohol is the best way to minimise harm. Can you believe? This should not be that groundbreaking of a concept, but it may make you reconsider your end-of-summer rosé binge.
For this new study, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers analysed data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2016, which encompassed information about alcohol consumption from people ages 15 to 49 in 195 countries and territories from 1990-2016. They also reviewed over 500 studies about the risks of alcohol. Their goal was to better understand how alcohol is related to poor health outcomes, and figure out the amount of alcohol that's associated with improved health.
Not surprisingly, they found that the health risks associated with alcohol are "massive," Emmanuela Gakidou, PhD, the senior author of the study said in a press release. "Our findings are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular problems," she said. Specifically, they found that in 2016, alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and death for people ages 15 to 49, and was associated with 2.8 million deaths worldwide that year.
According to these study authors, the best way to avoid these negative health outcomes and deaths is to seriously consider drinking less, or abstain entirely. "The myth that one or two drinks a day are good for you is just that — a myth. This study shatters that myth," Dr. Gakidou said in the press release. Recently, many people have questioned the validity of studies that claim light-to-moderate alcohol intake is good for you, because in the past this research has been funded by alcohol companies. So, this new study is just the latest reason for people to reassess their alcohol intake.
But quitting alcohol cold-turkey is not necessarily the most realistic plan of action for some people. Giving blanket recommendations about alcohol intake isn't really useful for individuals, because "alcohol offers each person a different spectrum of benefits and risks," according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Additionally, in this particular study they didn't differentiate between different types of alcohol, they just used a standard drink of 10 grams of pure alcohol consumed by a person daily to define "average consumption." So, the point is that there are nuances to alcohol intake that we can't determine based on this new study. Only you and your doctor can determine what makes the most sense for you.
Overall, though, this should serve as a sobering reminder that alcohol is bad for your body and can do a number on your physical health both in the short and long term. Or, as Alexis Halpern, MD, emergency medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, told us in April: "Alcohol is really toxic."