How much alcohol is too much? For years, we’ve been using numbers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). It defines low-risk drinking as:
No more than 3 drinks per day; and
No more than 7 drinks per week
No more than 4 drinks per day; and
No more than 14 drinks per week
where 1 drink = 14 grams of absolute or “pure” alcohol. This corresponds to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of table wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (e.g., vodka).
All that is about to change. A new study involving about 600,000 people found that drinking targets should be a lot lower—probably no more than 100 grams of alcohol per week. This corresponds to just 7 standard drinks.
The study found that people who consume more than 100 grams of alcohol per week had a higher risk of dying. They also had more heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases.
Here’s the flip side: drinking less appears to add years to your life. For example, 40-year-olds increase their life expectancy by at least 1 year when they reduce alcohol intake from NIAAA’s current upper limits to no more than 100 grams per week.
I’ve loaded these data into my longest running PowerPoint slide deck (Slides 14–16) and am encouraging my students to change the advice they give to patients. Please pitch in and start spreading the word!