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Another study raises questions about your daily glass(es) of alcohol

Is it time to cut back? Another study raises more questions about even light drinking.Torsten Schon

Been drinking that daily glass of wine to stay healthy?

Maybe you should reconsider, according to a recent study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Looking at data from more than 400,000 people, the researchers found that imbibing one to two drinks four or more times per week increases the risk of premature death by 20 percent, the university said in a statement. That amount of light drinking is considered healthy under current guidelines.

“Daily drinking, even at low levels, is detrimental to one’s health,” said the study, which was published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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“It used to seem like having one or two drinks per day was no big deal, and there even have been some studies suggesting it can improve health,” Dr. Sarah M. Hartz, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry who was the first author of the paper, said in the statement. “But now we know that even the lightest daily drinkers have an increased mortality risk.”

Hartz said earlier studies may have linked light drinking to improvements in cardiovascular health, but the new study shows those possible benefits are outweighed by other risks, including the risk of cancer.

Hartz predicted that in the future, some doctors may recommend that people with family histories of heart problems have an occasional drink. But the doctors may suggest abstinence for those with family histories of cancer.

“If you tailor medical recommendations to an individual person, there may be situations under which you would think that occasional drinking potentially could be helpful,” she said. “But overall, I do think people should no longer consider a glass of wine a day to somehow be healthy.”

The study comes at a time that new questions are being raised about how safe drinking is. A study published earlier this year in the journal The Lancet concluded that no amount of drinking is safe.

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Some experts said after The Lancet study was released that people shouldn’t get too alarmed about the risks posed by light drinking because they are smaller than many other risks in people’s lives.

David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC, “There is no safe level of driving, but governments do not recommend that people avoid driving. . . . Come to think of it, there is no safe level of living, but nobody would recommend abstention.”

Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com