Science Says An Extra Glass Of Wine A Day Could Shorten Your Lifespan

by Jerriann Sullivan
Image via Pom669/Getty Images

An extra drink a week could cut your life by 30 minutes

A new study of nearly 600,000 people who drink in 19 countries shows that those extra drinks add up and cut our lives short. The new study, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge, showed that drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol can damage our hearts and limit life expectancy. And for some folks that dangerous limit is less than one drink a day.

Having too much of your favorite booze means a higher risk of stroke, fatal aneurysm, heart failure, and death, according to the study that was published in The Lancet this week. The key to enjoying alcohol without putting yourself at risk is understanding the amount doctors say is safe to consume. Since the researchers are in the United Kingdom, they worked with the UK’s drinking recommendations, which were lowered in 2016 to no more than 14 units of alcohol each week, or six pints of beer or six glasses of wine.

We won’t bore you with the math it takes to figure out how many units of alcohol are in your drink, but instead, provide this handy guide that shows that on average, a glass of red wine has two units of alcohol while white wine has three. Beer has two to three units depending on the alcohol by volume, which is usually listed on the beer or wine bottle.

The new study showed that the top of the safe limit for weekly drinking was about five drinks a week, which translates to just over five UK pints (or 95 ounces in the U.S.) of beer with a 4% alcohol by volume or five 175ml (or 29.5 ounces in the U.S.) of wine with a 13% alcohol by volume. Once you start consuming more than the recommended amount on a regular basis, you could get into trouble.

Consuming 10 or more drinks per week was associated with one to two fewer years of life. And when you bump that number up to 18 drinks a week, you’re looking at losing four to five years off your life. The study is big news for drinkers across the world since countries have different recommendations for alcohol consumption. “This is a serious wakeup call for many countries,” said Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the research.

For those of us who enjoy drinking in the U.S., it does mean we should cut back from the amount outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the Centers for Disease Control. They define moderate drinking as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. “This powerful study may make sobering reading for countries that have set their recommendations at higher levels than the UK,” shared Victoria Taylor, of the British Heart Foundation. “We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target, and try to drink well below this threshold.”

The good news is we don’t have to stop drinking. But reducing the amount of alcohol we consume is always a good thing. “The key message of this research is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions,” explained Dr. Angela Wood, the lead author of the study.