How Much Alcohol Is Safe to Drink? None, Say These Researchers

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A large study of drinking habits in 195 countries contradicts widely shared advice on healthy drinking.

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While the study was the largest of its kind, it was also observational, linking population-wide consumption to population-wide trends.CreditCreditPeter Nicholls/Reuters
Nicholas Bakalar

Just one alcoholic drink a day slightly increases an individual’s risk for health problems, according to a large new study.

No level of alcohol consumption conferred any health benefits, the authors also concluded — a finding that runs contrary to much previous research and public health guidelines in many countries.

The analysis, involving 195 countries and territories from 1990 to 2016, relied on 694 sources of data and analyzed 592 studies to determine the health risks of alcohol use. While the study is among the largest of its kind, it was also observational, linking population-wide consumption to population-wide trends.

The methods left many experts unconvinced.

Online in Medium, David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at Cambridge University in England, wrote of the study’s conclusion: “Claiming there is no ‘safe’ level does not seem an argument for abstention. There is no safe level of driving, but governments do not recommend that people avoid driving.”

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