British women now among top drinkers in the world

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The researchers note that previous studies looking at the health benefits of alcohol have numerous limitations. The research looked at the alcohol consumption and subsequent health effects in 195 countries between 1990 and 2016.

The study team claims it supersede previous claims pertaining to alcohol use because they took the insights from 595 studies and 28 million people into consideration for their research.

The researchers estimated that in people aged 15-95 years, drinking one alcoholic drink per day for one year increases the risk of developing one of the 23 alcohol-related health problems by 0.5%, compared with not drinking at all.

However, it's hard to estimate the risks for a person who drinks fairly infrequently - such as someone who has one drink every two weeks - so the findings might not necessarily apply to this population. "But the evidence is the evidence".

Globally, drinking alcohol is the seventh-leading risk factor for premature death and disease.

The researchers noted some benefits of alcohol but still maintained that the side effects are far worse.

Alcohol was found to protect only against ischemic heart disease - or hardening of the arteries - but the effect was described as small compared to the health risks from drinking.

"Alcohol is a colossal global health issue and small reductions in health-related harms at low levels of alcohol intake are outweighed by the increased risk of other health-related harms, including cancer", wrote Dr Robyn Burton of King's College London, in a commentary.

It also emphasised that health loss due to alcohol use was more pronounced for men than it is for women.

She added that those who are able to drink moderately are making their own choices based on their experiences.

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In 2016, the government cut the levels of alcohol it recommends for men and women to no more than 14 units a week - equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or seven glasses of wine.

In 2016, 1.5 billion men and 900,000 women were current drinkers. In people age 50 and older, cancers were a leading cause of alcohol-related death, accounting for about 27 percent of deaths in women and 19 percent of deaths in men. Instead, public health policy can enact measures like restriction on places that sell alcohol or market it, increase in alcohol price and taxes, and the prices could be set according to the minimum unit pricing.

But the new study found for every 100,000 people who consumed two drinks a day, there would be an extra 63 cases of ill health a year.

Drinking patterns varied greatly around the world, the study found.

The top 10 heaviest-drinking countries are all in Europe, with Romania leading the pack at an average 8.2 daily drinks among all men, and an astounding 12 drinks per day among men ages 45 to 59.

For those drinking five drinks a day that number went up by 37% to an additional 338 people.

Published this week in The Lancet, the study is one of the most significant to date, according to the researchers due to the breadth of its data.

"I think this is actually consistent with every organization's recommendation that, overall, no one should start drinking to prevent heart disease or diabetes", Mozaffarian says.

The risk is even more pronounced amoung younger people.