A new study from the University of Cambridge seems to prove conclusively that alcohol is, in fact, bad for you. Even drinking the recommended units of alcohol per week is likely to cause problems.

This might sound unsurprising, but considering how much hype evidence to the contrary gets, it’s probably worth remembering.

The study was an analysis of the drinking habits of around 600,000 people in 19 countries.

The scientists involved in the study hoped to discover how much life a person was likely to lose if they drank heavily over the age of 40.

How can drinking affect you?

The results found that drinking over 12.5 units of alcohol per week could shorten a person’s life.

Five to ten alcoholic drinks per week could shave six months off your life. However, the more alcohol consumed, the higher the chance of death. Eighteen drinks or more per week could result in a lifespan shortened by five years.

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By GlobalData

The upper safe limit before effects start to become visible is about 12.5 units per week. That’s about four large glasses of wine, five and a half pints of lager, or around six and a half double gin and tonics.

After passing the upper limit of 12.5 units per week, the risk of various illnesses rose. For every 12.5 units consumed per week:

  • The risk of a stroke was 14% higher
  • Fatal hypertension disease became 28% more likely
  • People were 9% more likely to experience heart failure
  • The danger of a fatal aortic aneurysm was increased by 15%

The study also found that drinking did reduce the risk of non-fatal heart disease. However, the effect was so minor in comparison with the negative side-effects, it was basically irrelevant.

The scientists who conducted the study noted that it was a challenge to the idea that drinking in moderation can be healthy.

Recommended units of alcohol per week:

The authors also said the study backed up the UK’s drinking guidelines which were recently lowered to 14 units a week for both men and women.

Previously guidelines suggested 14 units a week for women and 21 units a week for men.

Italy, Portugal and Spain’s recommended limits are around 50% higher than this. Guidelines in the US say the upper limit for men is nearly double the UK.