Rene Zellweger as the white-wine-guzzling Bridget Jones in the movie of the same name.
To minimise health risks, the optimal amount of alcohol someone should consume is none. That’s the simple conclusion of a massive study, co-authored by 512 researchers from 243 institutions, published recently in the prestigious journal The Lancet.

The researchers built a database of more than 1000 alcohol studies and data sources, as well as death and disability records from 195 countries and territories between 1990 and 2016. The goal was to estimate how alcohol affects the risk of 23 health problems. The number that jumped out, in the end, was zero.

“What has been underappreciated, what’s surprising, is that no amount of drinking is good for you,” said Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor of global health at the University of Washington and the senior author of the report.

“People should no longer think that a drink or two a day is good for you. What’s best is to not drink at all.”

The report found that 2.8 million people across the globe died in 2016 of alcohol-related causes, which is about the same proportionally as the 2 million who died in 1990. For people aged 15-49, alcohol is the leading risk factor for a negative health outcome.

This is a sobering report for the 2 billion humans who drink. The report challenges the controversial hypothesis that moderate drinking provides a clear health benefit. That took hold in the 1990s after news reports on the “French paradox”: The French have low rates of heart disease despite a fatty diet. Some researchers pointed to red wine consumption as protective.

Numerous peer-reviewed studies found evidence that people who have a drink or two a day are less likely to have heart disease than people who abstain or drink excessively.

The study, while noting the lower risks of heart disease from moderate drinking, and a dip in diabetes rate in women, found many risks offset the benefits - breast cancer, larynx cancer, stroke, cirrhosis, tuberculosis, interpersonal violence, self-harm and traffic accidents. - The Washington Post