Alcohol guidelines in many countries may not be safe

The recommended alcohol limit in Italy and Spain is almost 50 per cent higher than in the UK

To drink alcoholic beverages to the mind.

Most Canadians drink alcohol and, as a country, we consume more than 50 per cent above the world average. Beyond that, between 200g and 350g a week, they can expect to lose one to two years of life.

People who do not drink at all can have worse health, also - something that can confuse consumers and doctors alike. Experts say this is because it increases levels of good cholesterol, which can help protect against fatty deposits in blood vessels, reducing your risk of heart and circulatory disease.

Recommended alcohol limits in many countries should be lowered to around 100g/week for men and women, according to an analysis of data from almost 600,000 current drinkers in 19 countries published in medical journal, The Lancet. In Britain, that's about six pints of beer a week.

They found that 12.5 units of alcohol a week, approximately five large beers or five glasses of wine, was the upper safe limit of drinking.

Current Irish guidelines recommend a limit of 170g pure alcohol (17 standard drinks) per week for men and 110g pure alcohol (11 standard drinks) for women. In countries like Italy, Spain, or the United States, the recommended limit is now nearly double that in the UK (equating to up to two lost years of life).

Researchers from the University of Cambridge recently conducted a study that examined the health risks of drinking more than the recommended alcohol guidelines.

Dr Bartone said all studies showed there was no "safe level" of alcohol consumption, and European health agencies have always been advocating to keep drinking to a minimum, as it is a contributing factor to a number of cancers, liver disease and all forms of heart disease and stroke.

Dr Dan G Blazer, co-author, at Duke University in the USA, says doctors and other healthcare professionals must transmit this message to their patients.

A new global study suggests that the recommended limits for drinking alcohol are too high in Canada and many other countries.

"This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true", he said. "Nonetheless, the findings ought to be widely disseminated and they should provoke informed public and professional debate".

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Cambridge and was published in The Lancet journal.

An worldwide team of researchers looked at data from 600,000 people in 19 countries, who were asked about drinking habits dating back as long ago as 1964.

However other countries reportedly still have much higher limits than the UK.

"Alcohol consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks, but this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious - and potentially fatal - cardiovascular diseases", Wood said in a statement.

Professor Tim Chico, of the University of Sheffield, added: "I would not be surprised if the heaviest drinkers lost as many years of life as a smoker".

The study included data from 599,912 current drinkers and had access to their age, sex smoking status and other factors related to heart disease.