Cutting the amount we drink to just over half a unit a day could save 4,600 lives a year in England, according to a modeling study by Oxford University researchers published in the journal BMJ Open. Scientists have carried out a complex analysis in an attempt to determine the “optimal” level of alcohol consumption that is associated with the lowest rates of chronic disease in the UK. They conclude that the intake of about one-half of a typical drink per day would result in the healthiest outcomes, and the authors conclude that the recommended alcohol intake for the UK should be reduced from the current advised level of drinking.
Half a unit of alcohol is as little as a quarter of a glass of wine, or a quarter of a pint. That’s much lower than current government recommendations of between 3 to 4 units a day for men and 2-3 units for women. The researchers set out to find the optimum daily amount of alcohol that would see fewest deaths across England from a whole range of diseases connected to drink. Previous studies have often looked at the separate effects of alcohol on heart disease, liver disease or cancers in isolation.
‘Although there is good evidence that moderate alcohol consumption protects against heart disease, when all of the chronic disease risks are balanced against each other, the optimal consumption level is much lower than many people believe,’ says lead author Dr Melanie Nichols of the BHF Health Promotion Research Group in the Department of Public Health at Oxford University. They found that just over half a unit of alcohol a day was the optimal level of consumption among current drinkers.
‘Moderating your alcohol consumption overall, and avoiding heavy-drinking episodes (“binge drinking”), is one of several things, alongside a healthy diet and regular physical activity, that you can do to reduce your risk of dying early of chronic diseases.