Even Light Drinking May Be Too Much, According To A New Study

by Mika Doyle
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Study after study has come out this year with new recommendations on how much alcohol you should drink. For years the experts said drinking red wine every so often was good for your heart, but do experts really know how much is safe to drink a week? According to the latest study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers found that drinking lightly four or more times a week might increase your risk of dying early — even though that amount of drinking is consistent with federal guidelines on safe alcohol consumption, TIME reports.

According to TIME, the study focused on adults who said they drank lightly (a drink or two per sitting), who didn’t drink, or who used to drink but stopped. The researchers found that the light drinkers who drank four or more times per week had around a 20 percent higher risk of dying during the study period than those who drank three or fewer times per week, TIME reports.

“The cutoff seems to be that we shouldn’t drink more than three times a week,” study co-author Dr. Sarah Hartz, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told TIME. “The frequency of drinking does matter, in the same way that taking a medicine matters. If you take a medicine once a week, it impacts you differently than if you take a medicine every day.”

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These findings support a major study researchers published in The Lancet back in August that found there’s no amount of alcohol you can drink that is safe for your body, fellow Bustler Lauren Sharkey reported. Researchers examined disease and mortality rates, as well as alcohol use, in 195 countries between 1990 and 2016 for people ages 19 to 95. They found that alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature deaths in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide in 2016, CNN reports. Alcohol was linked to 2.8 million deaths in 2016, says CNN.

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And the World Health Organization (WHO) also recently released a report that found alcohol causes 5 percent of deaths worldwide. In its global status report on alcohol and health, the WHO’s data showed that people in their 20s were most affected by alcohol-related deaths, which were mostly caused by injuries, such as car accidents or suicide. Other causes of alcohol-related deaths included in the report were digestive disorders, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, cancers, mental illness, and other disorders caused by alcohol intake.

So does this mean it’s time to give up alcohol completely? The researchers told TIME that the risks of drinking vary from person to person, so it may be worth reframing your thinking about alcohol. “I drink recreationally, and my main take-home is that I can’t think of it as a healthy behavior,” Hartz told TIME. “This isn’t like smoking, where you should immediately quit. It’s bad for you, but we do a lot of things that are bad for us. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a healthy behavior.”

If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).