No amount of alcohol is ‘safe’, experts have warned.
But the team argued these are clearly outweighed by booze’s adverse effects.
Excessive alcohol consumption can permanently damage the liver and cause cancer, they warned.
Researchers from WHO warned that alcohol use is among the leading risk factors for premature mortality and disability, with younger people disproportionately affected
But critics today slammed the message, accusing the authors of ‘demonising alcohol’ and publishing with ‘insufficient evidence’.
It comes as millions are attempting to give their bodies a break from booze and go cold turkey on alcohol during ‘Dry January’.
Leading experts have rowed about the harms of moderate drinking for decades.
Studies have suggested that a glass of wine or pint of beer a day can stave off a host of illnesses.
So, how much is TOO much?
NHS recommendations state adults shouldn’t drink more than 14 units each week — that’s 14 single shots of spirit or six pints of beer or a bottle and a half of wine.
They should also spread their drinking over three or more days to avoid bingeing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises Americans do not drink more than 14 standard alcohol drinks per week for men and seven for women.
A standard alcoholic drink includes 12oz of 5 per cent beer, 8oz of 7 per cent malt liqour, 5oz of 12 per cent wine or 1.5oz of spirits including rum, gin, vodka or whiskey.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over many years is already linked to a plethora of health issues such as high blood pressure, stroke risk, and range of cancers.
While others have argued that even light drinking is dangerous.
The WHO estimates that excessive alcohol consumption kills 3million people around the world each year.
Writing in The Lancet Public Health, the team of WHO experts said that ‘alcohol consumption’ as a whole was behind the the toll.
Their comment — not published as a WHO-endorsed statement — was not based on new research.
Instead, it was published as a comment, using various old studies to justify their position.
The team said some studies have suggested that light alcohol consumption ‘could have a small protective effect’.
But they claimed no studies have shown this also ‘reduces the risk of cancer for an individual consumer’.
And protective effects of moderate consumption ‘disappear with heavy episodic drinking’, they claimed.
‘As such, no safe amount of alcohol consumption for cancers and health can be established,’ they concluded.
‘Alcohol consumers should be objectively informed about the risks of cancer and other health conditions associated with alcohol consumption.’
The NHS recommends people do not drink more than 14 units a week and to spread them over three days or more.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that Americans do not drink more than 14 standard alcohol drinks per week for men and seven for women.
Ian Hamilton, an addiction expert at the University of York, told MailOnline that the WHO experts are ‘correct’ that there is ‘no safe level’ in terms of risks to health.
However, he added that it was ‘important to stress’ that by sticking to the guidelines the risk to health is ‘small’.
The risk of developing alcohol related diseases, is ‘greatest for those who consume large amounts in a small period of time’, he added.
Mr Hamilton said: ‘Ensuring that everyone understands the risks associated with their consumption is important but for those drinking occasionally and low quantities the risks to their health are small.’
Meanwhile, Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank, criticised the paper.
He told MailOnline: ‘In its efforts to demonise alcohol, the WHO speculates there to be “no safe level” of drinking for a few forms of cancer.
‘It admits that there is insufficient evidence to support this.
‘There is, however, a huge amount of evidence built up over decades showing that moderate drinking significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia.’
He added: ‘On average, moderate drinkers live longer than teetotallers, so if moderate drinking is risky enough to worry about, the risks of not drinking at all must be terrifying.’
In other health news…
Calorie counting is pointless, says top diet expert… so here’s what you should do instead
Ditching meat and animal products for ‘Veganuary’ this New Year can make you depressed, cause higher risk of broken bones and miscarriages, experts warn… As one in eight Britons aged 18 to 24 plan to take up the diet
DO YOU DRINK TOO MUCH ALCOHOL? THE 10 QUESTIONS THAT REVEAL YOUR RISK
One screening tool used widely by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the 10-question test is considered to be the gold standard in helping to determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.
The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.
To complete it, answer each question and note down the corresponding score.
0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.
Over 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.
8-15: Medium level of risk. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting down (see below for tips).
16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.
20 and over: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing you problems, and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reduce your drinking. You should seek professional help to ascertain the level of your dependence and the safest way to withdraw from alcohol.
Severe dependence may need medically assisted withdrawal, or detox, in a hospital or a specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours needing specialist treatment.