Many thousands of lives could be saved if Britons slashed their alcohol consumption, new research suggests.
Cutting average daily alcohol intake to the equivalent of around half a small glass of wine would prevent almost 4,600 premature deaths a year in England alone, it is claimed.
Scientists used a mathematical model to show that the ideal level of alcohol consumption to prevent chronic disease in England was five grams, or about half a unit.
A small 125 glass of wine contains 1.3 units. Current government guidelines of between three to four units per day for men and two to three for women “may not be compatible with optimum protection of public health,” say the authors.
Scientists from Oxford University, led by Dr Melanie Nichols and Dr Peter Scarborough, calculated the death toll impact of 11 conditions known to be linked to long term alcohol consumption.
They included heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy and five different cancers.
The results are published in the online journal BMJ Open.
A daily intake of just five grams of alcohol would lead to 843 extra deaths per year from heart and artery disease, the researchers point out. But this would be offset by a reduction of more than 2,600 deaths from cancer and almost 3,000 from liver cirrhosis.
- Nichols M, et al. What is the optimal level of population alcohol consumption for chronic disease prevention in England? Modelling the impact of changes in average consumption levels. BMJ 2012; Advance online publication.