According to the findings of a new study, there is no safe or “health” number of alcoholic drinks an individual can consume each day.
While some prior findings have suggested some benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption, researchers from the U.K. warn that no level is safe for a person’s health.
The findings were published last week in the medical journal The Lancet, analyzing data from a large scale study involving participants from 195 countries from 1990 to 2016. The study, part of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016, included data from more than 1,000 previous studies on alcohol consumption.
In 2016, alcohol was the seventh leading risk factor for death and disability, accounting for two percent of female deaths and seven percent of male deaths. Among people ages 15 to 49, alcohol is the leading risk factor for early death.
According to the findings, there is no evidence that moderate drinking, such as having one or two drinks per day, is safe. In addition, the researchers also determined that there was no evidence that any level of alcohol consumption improved health.
These findings directly contrast with other studies, which indicated people can drink one or two drinks a day safely, or that a glass of red wine may be beneficial for health.
Researchers say health risks start at one drink a day, with minor risks, then increase as a person drinks more. Study authors theorize the risk alcohol poses to a person’s health may stem from how alcohol damages the developing cells of the body.
A similar study published earlier this year indicated more than five alcoholic drinks per week may increase a person’s risk of early death. However, the new findings goes even further to implicate any level of alcohol consumption as harmful to health.
The study focused on global habits of alcohol consumption. In the U.S., one-third of all people drink alcohol of some sort. About 95% of people in Denmark drink alcohol, while less than 1% of people in Pakistan and Bangladesh, countries with a large Muslim population, drink alcohol.
Alcohol kills 2.8 million people around the world every year, resulting from cancer, heart disease, tuberculosis, and road accidents. Roughly 38 million American adults admit to binge-drinking, consuming eight drinks or more in rapid succession, once a week.
In the U.S., more than 2,000 Americans die each year from acute alcohol intoxication. A 2015 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated alcohol poisoning kills six people every day in the U.S.
Researchers of the new study say there is minor evidence to indicate alcohol may reduce the risk of heart disease, but the effect is minor and the side effects of alcohol consumption may outweigh any positive effects.
Government agencies around the world should implement new ways to discourage people from drinking alcohol, the researchers recommended. They suggested stronger warnings, additional taxes, and other programs to reduce binge drinking and discourage alcohol consumption could be launched.