A recent study published in the Lancet has confirmed previous research which has shown that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.
The researchers admit moderate drinking may protect against heart disease but found that the risk of cancer and other diseases outweighs these protections.
A study author said its findings were the most significant to date because of the range of factors considered.
How risky is moderate drinking?
The Global Burden of Disease study looked at levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries between 1990 and 2016.
Analyzing data from 15 to 95-year-olds, the researchers compared people who did not drink at all with those who had one alcoholic drink a day.
They found that out of 100,000 non-drinkers, 914 would develop an alcohol-related health problem such as cancer or suffer an injury.
But an extra four people would be affected if people drank one alcoholic drink a day – an increased risk of 0.5%.
For people who had two alcoholic drinks a day, 63 more people developed a condition within a year – an increase of 7%.
And for those who consumed five drinks every day, there was an increase of 37%, or 338 people, who developed a health problem.
One of the study authors, Prof Sonia Saxena, a researcher at Imperial College London and a practising GP, said: “One drink a day does represent an increased risk.”
The lead author of the study Dr Max Griswold, at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington, said: “Previous studies have found a protective effect of alcohol on some conditions, but we found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increases with any amount of alcohol.
“The strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for heart disease in our study.
“Although the health risks associated with alcohol start off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more.”
At the time, England’s chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, noted that any amount of alcohol could increase the risk of cancer.
How many units of alcohol are in each drink?
- Large glass of wine – 3 units
- Pint of higher-strength lager or beer – 3 units
- Standard glass of wine – 2 units
- Pint of lower-strength lager or beer – 2 units
- Bottle of lager or beer – 1.7 units
- Single shot of spirits – 1 unit
Source: NHS Choices