This is how much alcohol is acceptable for healthWhoever permanently consumes more than two liters of beer or one bottle of wine per week risks more strokes and heart failure. This results from an analysis of the drinking habits of 600.000 people from 19 countries.
A study recommends new guideline values for low-risk alcohol consumption. Existing values would therefore have to be drastically corrected. However, an after-work beer may be in order under certain circumstances.
N a well, one more beer. But after that is the end! It is after all already the fourth one on this evening. But you can still stand upright, look reasonably straight ahead, and the sentences still come out coherently. If one believes at least. For a convivial evening, one can do that after all. Or?
In fact, at the moment, the medical answer to this question is quite different – depending on which country you are in. In Germany, for example, national guidelines state that women should not drink more than 84 grams of alcohol per week – an amount equivalent to four beers. For men, the current guideline is eight beers. In the U.S., by contrast, it is five beers for women and ten for men.
In Switzerland, on the other hand, eight beers are considered safe for women, twice as many as in Germany. According to Swiss guidelines, men can drink as much as 252 grams of alcohol per week without suffering long-term damage. That's twelve beers – and a big difference from what's recommended in Germany.
Men in Germany, the U.S. or Switzerland have an absolutely comparable metabolism, as do women in the countries. So how much alcohol can you drink without causing long-term damage??
Now a comprehensive study is available that provides surprising findings on this question. Number one: There is no real difference between men and women when it comes to drinking as little alcohol as possible at low risk. For both sexes, roughly the same guideline value can be amed, of course across national borders. And number two: This guideline value is far below what is currently given for men in Germany and above what applies to women. It is 100 grams per week – an amount equivalent to about five beers.
Data from 600.000 alcohol drinkers
According to the study, a glass of red wine in the evening or an after-work beer during the week would actually be fine. But only if you really stick to it and practice abstinence on weekends.
This is the conclusion reached by a large team of medical experts from around the world in the journal "Lancet". The researchers analyzed data from a total of 83 long-term studies published between 1964 and 2010. Altogether they could thus on data of nearly 600.000 people. The researchers led by Angela Wood of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge selected data exclusively from people who described themselves as alcohol consumers.
Those who had never drunk alcohol and teetotalers excluded it from the outset. Because those who live abstinently do not necessarily have favorable health values: Among them there are also those who have already suffered physical damage from too much alcohol and now no longer drink for health reasons. Their risk of developing the corresponding diseases is often increased anyway and would have falsified the study results.
The researchers wanted to find out how mortality and the risk of cardiovascular disease develop in relation to alcohol consumption. They were looking for a threshold at which mortality was as low as possible and the risk of cardiovascular disease was still acceptable. Because the 83 studies each looked at several consecutive years, they were able to track both well.
They recorded 40.310 deaths due to various causes. The fewest of these occurred in the group of people who reported consuming 100 grams of alcohol or less per week. The lower the alcohol consumption, the better the life expectancy: A 40-year-old man who consumed no more than 100 grams of alcohol per week would have a life expectancy one to two years longer than a man of the same age who followed the current U.S. recommendation and consumed just under 200 grams of alcohol accordingly, write the researchers.
Risk of heart attack decreases with higher consumption
The study also shows how dangerous so-called binge drinking is, says Katharina Diehl, program manager "Youth and Health" at the Mannheim Institute for Public Health at the University of Heidelberg. This unrestrained drinking, also called binge drinking, is a trend among young people. According to a 2016 survey by the German Federal Center for Health Education, 16.5 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have engaged in so-called binge drinking within the past 30 days.
Although data from the Federal Center also show that binge drinking among young people is declining over time. But they are still present – which is why further educational work is necessary, says Diehl. The study by Wood and her colleagues shows that the risk of death rises sharply at more than 350 grams per week – about as much as a bottle of liquor contains, she says.
In addition, the researchers registered 39 in the study.018 cases of cardiovascular disease, with the risk being lowest when alcohol was consumed at 100 grams per week. The risk of heart attack was actually smaller when more alcohol was consumed. In Germany died in 2014 a report of the Robert Koch Institute a total of 14.099 people from illnesses clearly linked to alcohol.
Addiction in the family
Globally, alcohol abuse is one of the top five risk factors for disease, impairment and death. In order to minimize the risk, countries therefore strive to specify guideline values for acceptable consumption. Should the guideline values now be adjusted internationally to 100 grams per week??
Cornelia Lange, head of the health behavior department at the Robert Koch Institute, warns against this conclusion. While she praises the study's design. Your thoroughness. Since only alcohol drinkers were considered, the associations between deaths and cardiovascular disease were clearly attributable to alcohol, he said.
Nevertheless, immediate recommendations should not be changed solely on the basis of the present study. After all, the researchers led by Angela Wood had only looked at the overall mortality of the study participants and their risk of cardiovascular disease. But increased alcohol consumption also increases the risk of individual other diseases, such as breast cancer – though differently between the sexes, Lange says. Therefore, it may also be reasonable to give different guideline values for men and women.
"It cannot be deduced that the limits for women should now be raised," also says Hans-Jurgen Rumpf, senior psychologist in the research group "Substance-Related and Related Disorders: Therapy, Epidemiology and Prevention" at the University of Lubeck. An increased risk of breast cancer had already been taken into account in the limits applicable to Germany.
Negative influences outweigh by far
Michael Roerecke also advises against implementing the new value immediately. Many diseases are associated with alcohol that are not covered by the study, says the researcher, who works at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Canada, among other places. Thus, many are also aware of the risk of oral-. Esophageal cancer unaware.
The German Federal Statistical Office, together with the German Institute for Medical Documentation and Information, lists 17 diseases that are directly linked to alcohol. "All alcohol consumption is associated with a risk, and worldwide, the negative impact far outweighs the negative impact," Roerecke says.