How much alcohol is healthy if you are under 40? Nothing, says a study
(CNN) –– No amount of alcohol is healthy for people under 40, due primarily to alcohol-related car crash deaths, injuries and homicides, new global research has revealed.
However, if you’re 40 or older and don’t have any underlying health problems, the new study found that small amounts of alcohol could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes.
“These diseases are the main causes of death in a good part of the world,” said Emmanuela Gakidou, lead author of the research. Gakidou works as a professor of health metrics sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
“So when you look at the cumulative impact on health, especially among older adults, it shows that a small amount (of alcohol) is actually better for you than not drinking at all. For all other causes, all levels of consumption are harmful,” he explained.
Study found no protective effect of alcohol for other diseases
In fact, the study found no protective effect for diseases such as tuberculosis, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, liver disease, epilepsy, pancreatitis, and many types of cancer.
“Both global and national alcohol guidelines generally emphasize the difference between the level of consumption for men compared to women,” Gakidou said. “What our work suggests is that global, national and local guidelines would be more effective if they focused on age rather than gender.”
The findings underscore “the importance of alcohol recommendations tailored to specific regions and populations,” wrote Amanda Berger, vice president of science and health for the US trade group Distilled Spirits Council, in an email to CNN.
“Most importantly, no one should drink alcohol for potential health benefits, and some people should not drink alcohol at all.”
People under 40 have the highest risk from alcohol consumption, according to the study
The research, published in the journal Lancet This Thursday, it is the first to document alcohol risk by global geographic region, age, sex and year, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which prepared the study.
The analysis evaluated 30 years of data on people ages 15 to 95 in 204 countries and territories, compiled by the institute’s Global Burden of Disease, Injury, and Risk Factor Study. That study tracks premature death and disability from more than 300 diseases.
Recent research estimates that 1.34 billion people worldwide consumed harmful amounts of alcohol in 2020. More than 59% of people who drank harmful amounts of alcohol were between the ages of 15 and 39. More than two-thirds were men.
The study found that, across all geographic regions, drinking alcohol provides no health benefits for people under 40 years of age. However, the research warns, the substance does increase the risk of injuries, such as car accidents, suicides and homicides.
The study defined a standard amount as 10 grams of pure alcohol, which could be a small glass of red wine (100 milliliters), a standard 355-milliliter can or bottle of beer (3.5% ABV), or a shot of 30 milliliters of liquor that is 40% alcohol by volume.
Criticism of the study’s conclusions
While they praised the analysis and the way it was conducted, some experts not involved in the study expressed concern about the conclusions it delivered.
Statistics show that there are “14 times more alcohol-attributable deaths in the UK among people aged 70-74 than among those aged 20-24,” Colin Angus, lead researcher with the Research Group, said in a statement. on Alcohol at the University of Sheffield in the UK. These data “contradict the conclusion of this new study that we should focus on alcohol consumption in younger age groups,” Angus said.
“The thorny issue in this study is the interpretation of outcome-based risk for cardiovascular disease, particularly in older people,” said Tony Rao, MD, a visiting clinical researcher at the King’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. London College.
“We know that any purported benefits of alcohol for heart and circulation health are balanced by the increased risk of other conditions such as cancer, liver disease, and mental disorders such as depression and dementia,” Rao explained in a statement. .
A study published in March found that just one pint of beer or one glass of wine a day can reduce overall brain volume. Also that the damage increases as alcohol consumption increases daily. On average, 50-year-olds who drank a pint of beer or a 170-milliliter glass of wine a day over the past month had brains that looked two years older than those who only drank half a beer.
Alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic
Research in the US reveals that alcohol consumption among adults increased during the pandemic, especially among women, with “a 41% increase in days of heavy drinking,” said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, medical director of the Substance Use Disorders Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital, during a previous interview with CNN.
Research published in June found that many people over the age of 30 with moderate alcohol consumption increase their intake on the weekends, known as “binge” and defined as five or more drinks in a row or in a short period of time. Drinking an average of more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men — or five or more drinks on the same occasion — was linked to alcohol problems nine years later.
Women are more sensitive to the effects
Women are especially sensitive to the effects of alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA). Problems related to this substance appear earlier and at lower levels of drinking than in men, the study noted.
Women are more susceptible than men to alcohol-related brain damage and heart disease. In that sense, research shows that women who drink alcohol once a day increase their risk of breast cancer between 5% and 9% compared to those who abstain.
“The recommendation that those under 40 not drink any alcohol is totally unrealistic,” Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, an industry-funded group that regulates alcohol marketing in the UK, said in an email.
Gakidou, the lead author of the study, admitted that “it is unrealistic to think that young adults will stop drinking. Still, we believe it is important to communicate the latest evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health.”
For those over 65, any increase in alcohol use is of concern because many “take medications that can interact with alcohol, have health problems that can be aggravated by alcohol, and may be more susceptible to alcohol-related falls and other accidental injuries. the NIAA explained.
“There’s a high threshold before you can say that alcohol is an effective prevention therapy, and the studies so far don’t meet that threshold. If they did, then you can be sure the alcoholic beverage industry would be petitioning the FDA.” a license,” said Dr. Nick Sheron, a professor in the department of hepatology at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.
‘A more detailed and nuanced analysis’
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation last published a report on alcohol four years ago, when it analyzed 2016 Global Burden of Disease data on people ages 15 to 49, and found that no amount of liquor , wine or beer was safe for health in general.
“What we have done in this new study is a more detailed and nuanced analysis of 21 different regions of the world,” Gakidou said. “What we were able to do now is break it down: Who is alcohol harmful for? Who is alcohol beneficial for? That’s why the message seems different, but it’s actually consistent with what we said before,” he clarified.
“If you ask me, ‘Will the message be different in 10 years?’ Maybe. New evidence is likely to come out,” she said. “That may change our thinking.”