The study report, released today by Cambridge University and published in The Lancet, claims that drinking more than five 175ml glasses of wine or pints of beer each week causes greater risk of strokes, heart failures and fatal aneurysms.
The report found that a 40-year-old regularly drinking between about 10 to 18 glasses of wine or pints of beer a week had a lower life expectancy of around one to two years, while someone who exceeded this level could be shedding four to five years off their life.
However, industry figures have rallied against the study, claiming that it overlooks the “mental and social benefits” of sensible alcohol consumption.
Nannying into submission
“This study completely overlooks the well-documented health benefits light to moderate enjoyment of alcohol brings,” said James Calder, head of communications for the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA). “The mental and social benefits of enjoying alcohol sensibly are also overlooked.
“We have 40 years of research that shows light to moderate drinking equals improved cognitive function and memory in ageing as well as reduced chance of vascular dementia,” Calder continued. “What about the simple, social improvements to quality of life that being in a pub or taproom with your friends and family regularly brings to our wellbeing?”
“Sadly we live in an era where those in the temperance and health movements refuse to accept the facts: that sensible alcohol consumption has health benefits and that adults should be informed to make their own choices, not nannied into submission.”
The Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA), slammed the "inaccurate, misleading and sensational" reporting of the study, and urged the Government to provide balanced information about the risks associated with drinking.
"This study confirms what we have been saying for a long time: moderate consumption of alcohol is more beneficial than not drinking at all," Chairman Colin Valentine said. "while heavy drinking of course carries risks to health, those risks only increase at a level of consumption far above the current UK consumption guidelines.
“In addition, studies have shown that enjoying alcohol responsibly in communal settings such as pubs brings drinkers many benefits to their social wellbeing and mental health.
“We will continue to urge the Government to provide the public with balanced and unbiased information about risks associated with drinking so that they can make their own informed decisions - as well as urge the media to report studies of this sort in a fair and accurate way, rather than potentially misleading people into believing any alcohol consumption is harmful.”
Guidelines among lowest in Europe
British Beer & Pub Association policy director Andy Tighe also highlighted the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, and the benefit it can bring to pubs.
"There are many scientific studies that support the view moderate alcohol consumption can form part of a healthy lifestyle," he said. "UK brewers have a long-standing record of promoting responsible drinking and enabling consumers to make informed decisions. Beer, which is typically the lowest strength form of alcohol, is a great way to enjoy responsible drinking and support your local pub.”
Lead author of the study, Dr Angela Wood, said: "The key message of this research for public health is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions."
In 2016, the recommended weekly amount for men was lowered to bring it into line with that of women at 14 units. However. industry watchdog The Portman Group stated it was against further changes to drinking guidelines.
A spokesperson for The Portman Group said: “The UK’s guidelines are already among the lowest in Europe and the vast majority of adults already drink at or below this level or choose not to drink alcohol.
"Rates of harmful drinking and binge drinking have been in decline for a decade so further changes would be unnecessary and entirely confusing for consumers.”