People who drink more than 100g of alcohol every week - around five 175ml glasses of wine or pints of beer - are at an increased risk of early death, an analysis of nearly 600,000 people has found.
Drinking more alcohol was also linked with a greater chance of suffering a stroke, heart failure, and fatal aneurysm, according to the international study published in the Lancet journal.
Lead author, Dr Angela Wood, of the University of Cambridge, said: "The key message of this research for public health is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions."
The study analysed 599,912 current drinkers in 19 countries, none of whom had a known history of cardiovascular disease, and found an increase in all causes of death when more than 100g of alcohol was consumed every week.
A 40-year-old regularly drinking between 200g and 350g of alcohol per week - about ten to 18 glasses of wine or pints of beer - had a lower life expectancy of around one to two years, researchers found. Those exceeding 350g of alcohol every week could shed four to five years off their life.
While the study also found alcohol consumption was linked to a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks, experts said "on balance" there are no health benefits from drinking.
Dr Wood said: "Alcohol consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious - and potentially fatal - cardiovascular diseases."
The authors of the study said recommended alcohol limits should be lowered to around 100g or 12.5 units per week in many countries.
The upper recommended limit for men in the US is almost 25 units of alcohol per week.
Co-author, Professor Naveed Sattar of the University of Glasgow, said: "This study provides clear evidence to support lowering the recommended limits of alcohol consumption in many countries around the world."
Commenting on the findings, Professor Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: "The study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true.
"Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and strokes."
The study was funded by the European Union Framework 7 and European Research Council, British Heart Foundation, UK Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research.