How Much Alcohol is Safe to Drink?
Patients often ask me, “How much alcohol is safe to drink?” Unfortunately, many will not like the answer. But, large scale studies have shown that there really is no safe dosage.
While a lot of media attention has gone to some research that focuses on possible health benefits of drinking alcohol in moderation, a large new report warns that the harms of alcohol greatly outweigh any potential benefits. The study looked at data on 28 million people worldwide and its authors concluded that there is "no safe level of alcohol."
"Previous studies have found a protective effect of alcohol on some conditions, but we found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increase with any amount of alcohol," said lead author Dr. Max Griswold, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. "In particular, the strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for ischemic heart disease in women in our study."
Approximately 2.8 million people die annually from alcohol-related causes. Regular alcohol consumption can have negative impacts on many of the body’s organs. Seven types of cancer have been associated with drinking. The research found that drinking alcohol was the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disease (in 2016).
Studies showing protective benefits of alcohol in moderation may have limitations. They often use self-reporting or alcohol sales figures, which don’t provide accurate representations. They don’t factor in underlying health conditions that may cause people not to drink, thus falsely assuming a causal relationship between poor health and abstinence.
What Can You Do?
It is tempting to focus on the mention of health benefits when it’s something we don’t want to give up. But, this study clearly concludes that the risks of even small amounts of alcohol consumption outweigh any potential health benefits. Here are some personal health tips:
- If you’re a regular drinker, start reducing consumption. Even if you only drink in moderation, consider quitting. This is especially important if you have certain health conditions or a family history of cancer.
- Practice a healthy lifestyle, eating a balanced diet with cancer-protective, heart-healthy foods. Exercise regularly. Mental health and stress management are equally important. Find healthy coping mechanisms and solutions for stress, rather than drinking, overeating or other harmful behaviors.
- Get annual checkups and health screenings, especially if you have been drinking regularly. Be honest with medical professionals about your lifestyle and the amount you drink. They’re not here to punish or judge you, but to help you. They cannot do that without honest information.
- Seek help if you or loved ones are concerned about your drinking, you’ve had blackouts or injuries while drinking, or you’re having difficulty reducing or giving up drinking. Here is a quick quiz you can take to determine if you might have a drinking problem, but if you or others are concerned that is a reason to seek help. You can contact your doctor, talk to a counselor, or contact Lifeline Shanghai for resources. Alcoholics Anonymous holds several meetings in Shanghai as well.
The Body & Soul team is here to help you with your physical and mental health. Our holistic practitioners offer health checkups, functional medicine and nutrition advice, physiotherapy/fitness plans, TCM, healing energy work, psychological services and more.
Dr. Sara Laudani offers consultations in internal medicine and functional and nutritional medicine in our Hongmei Road Clinic – Hongqiao. Click here to schedule an appointment with her and find out how her holistic approach and protocols can help you get and stay healthy.