'Low-risk' moderate drinking can be harmful - study

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It isn't just heavy drinking that can be a problem, even consuming moderate amounts of alcohol in low-risk settings can result in hospitalisation and death, a new study has found.

Canadian research published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found a significant portion of alcohol-caused death and disability was done by people drinking within local "low-risk drinking guidelines", and moderate drinkers "are not insulated from harm".

The study was based on Canada's guidelines since that's where research was conducted, which states women shouldn't consume more than about 10 drinks per week and men no more than 15.

Research was led by Adam Sherk from the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research in British Columbia, and he found more than 50 percent of cancer deaths resulting from alcohol use in 2014 were from people who drank moderately. A further 38 percent of alcohol-caused deaths in the same year occurred in people who drank below the weekly limits or were former drinkers.

But there were some benefits for women who drank within the guidelines. The study found alcohol consumption offered protection from death from heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. However, this didn't hold for men, "who experienced harm at all drinking levels".

To conduct their study, researchers used an open-access model that can be used to estimate alcohol harms in a country or state.

Due to the results, the researchers suggest some national drinking guidelines may be too high and limits should be lowered and matched to those in the Netherlands, where it's advised to either abstain from alcohol altogether or have no more than one drink per day.

Overall, Sherk said the best advice for drinking is to be cautious and remember that "less is better".