The headlines sound terrifying: "Deadly cost of that extra drink: 10 glasses of wine a week can cut two years off your life" or "How much booze can you drink before it starts killing you? Not much".

Apparently now, even those of us who drink 10 units of alcohol a week are being told it's going to shorten our life, if you listen to the noise from a recent study.

So should all of us reasonable drinkers just stop drinking altogether?

Well, we could of course - we all have that choice already - but what the headlines and the words behind them fail to tell us is that those who don't drink alcohol actually die earlier than those who drink it moderately. Some might find this hard to believe, but it's true.


And if you read the report that led to the recent sensationalist headlines carefully then what it is actually saying is what we all already know - drinking sensibly is okay but if you drink too much then bad things can happen.

Let's be really clear with this. The study is large and robust, looking at health outcomes of around 600,000 people across many countries.

But while the headlines claimed drinkers who consume fewer than 10 drinks a week had a better life expectancy than those who have more than 10, what they didn't tell you is that the research also found that people who never drink alcohol had a shorter life expectancy than those who drank up to 25 drinks per week.

This is because drinking moderately results in improved cardiovascular health.

Independent study after independent study shows it to be true, and this one is no different.

So, cutting through the 1500 pages of study one interpretation of what is being said is if you want to maximise your life expectancy only drink up to 10 standard drinks a week but if you're happy with having the same life expectancy as non-drinkers then drink no more than 30 standard drinks a week.

Anything in between these you're doing okay.

So for those of us who try to look after ourselves, keep fit, watch what we eat and enjoy a beer or a wine to wind down after work - what do we do with this new information?

We digest it, keep it in perspective and follow the advice of our medical professionals.

While the prohibitionists are trying to stamp out the word "moderation," all major studies still point to our Ministry of Health guidelines as being sensible.

Those guidelines say 15 drinks per week for men, 10 for women and that we shouldn't binge drink (more than five in a session), but that drinking water and eating when you drink is positive.

Humans have enjoyed alcohol for thousands of years. It represents a convivial coming together of people - and what we know is that more than 80 per cent of Kiwis who drink are doing that reasonably and responsibly.

The alcohol industry believes Kiwis need to be in command of their own choices relating to alcohol, and that scary, unhelpful headlines don't lead to more informed choice, just more blocked ears, as people tune out to the threats and "we know best" attitudes of the prohibitionists.

Nick Leggett is executive director of the New Zealand Alcohol Beverage Council.