The medical journal The Lancet has published calls for advice on alcohol consumption to be made even more prohibitive.

We should all consider drinking no more than 100 grams of alcohol a week it says, which for those of us who don’t measure our alcohol in grams is around 5-6 glasses of wine or the same in pints for beer drinkers.

It is always sensible to heed medical advice – especially a large study like this. Led by academics at Cambridge University, it is based on analysis of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 different countries.

It is hard not describe the conclusions as sobering. Depending on how much more than this you drink (up to 200g, 2-350g, or more than 350g), you can expect to live between six months and five years less than someone who observes the new limit.

But this is little more than a bottle of wine a week, less than a pint of beer a day. For some that will sound more than enough, but as Australian experts on substance abuse write in the same issue of The Lancet, such limits are likely to be described as “implausible and impractical” by the alcohol industry.

And not just by the industry. There is a sense of scaremongering about the Lancet piece. Drinking excess alcohol led to an increase in “all causes of death” it says, particularly stroke, and a range of heart diseases.

But the researchers admit their study did not look at people across the whole of their lives, and relied entirely upon self-reporting to determine the amounts people drink.

They conclude many countries around the world should lower their recommended alcohol limits and doctors and other public health professionals should tell their patients to cut down.

Drinking more than six pints or glasses of wine a week cuts life expectancy, finds Lancet study

But they already do this. Scottish GPs have been urged to undertake Alcohol Brief Interventions with patients since 2009 and there must be a law of diminishing returns. While academics may fire barbs at the alcohol industry, it is not only those with a financial interest who recognise that unrealistic advice can be counterproductive. It would be interesting to know how many doctors working in the NHS restrict themselves to five glasses of wine a week.

Excessive drinking continues to do Scotland a huge amount of damage, imposing great costs on the NHS, criminal justice system, social services and causing family break up and harm to children. Efforts to mitigate that damage and offer help to those who need it is essential and should be supported.

But it should also be recognised that public health messages can have a very limited impact, especially if they are unrealistic. It should also be acknowledged that alcohol is a modest pleasure for many people – and has been for generations. In a stressful world there may be psychological benefits which are difficult to measure to having release valves – from the occasional bar of chocolate, to a glass of wine or a burger – which are difficult to measure. Many of our parents and grandparent had good and happy lives while being ignorant of the health facts that today bombard us.

Drinking more than six pints or glasses of wine a week cuts life expectancy, finds Lancet study

As a result there may even be those who consider that a trade off – some enjoyment and even irresponsibility in return for the risk of a somewhat shortened existence – is one worth making.

The team behind the paper in The Lancet have done what medical academics should do by determining as far as possible what science tells us about alcohol consumption and by setting out the facts. What is less clearly part of their role is to tell us what to do with that information.

Whether drinking an extra bottle of wine a week is a bad choice or not is one for the individual to make. Everything in moderation, including medical advice.