Alcohol formula

Alcohol Study: Is drinking alcohol safe for young adults?

No amount of alcohol is safe for people under 40, according to an international study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

According to a study published this week in The Lancet, some older adults may benefit slightly from drinking a small amount of alcohol.

The global study estimates that 1.34 billion people in 204 countries, mostly men, consumed harmful amounts of alcohol in 2020. The study indicates that 60% of alcohol-related injuries, including road accidents, suicides and homicides occur among 15 to 15 year olds. 39.

In addition, 1.78 million deaths in 2020 were due to alcohol consumption, which is the main risk factor for death in men aged 15 to 49.

To estimate the risks, the researchers looked at 22 possible health effects of alcohol consumption, including injury risk, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, epilepsy, and various cancers, among others. . They obtained data from the 2020 Global Burden of Disease wave of studies, which included both men and women aged 15 to 95.

They also compared the amount of alcohol an individual could drink without excessive health risk, compared to someone who drank none at all.

The findings were sobering.

People between the ages of 15 and 39 can only safely consume a tenth of a standard drink. The study defines a standard drink as 3.4 fluid ounces of red wine at 13% alcohol by volume; a 12-ounce can or bottle of beer containing 3.5% alcohol by volume; or 1 ounce of spirits at 40% alcohol by volume.

“By definition, the study results suggest that alcohol ceases to be ‘safe’ to consume for those under 40 around two teaspoons of red wine or two and a half tablespoons of beer,” reported Fortune.

The research is part of the foundation’s Global Burden of Disease study, which began in 1990, described by the Lancet as “the most comprehensive effort to date to understand the world’s changing health challenges”. .

Editorial guidelines

The report notes, however, that the risks of alcohol consumption vary by age and geographic location and should be noted when writing guidelines. Of all the factors considered, age and sex were found to be the most important.

Risks vary for people over 40. According to the report, drinking a small amount of alcohol could have beneficial health effects in those without underlying health conditions. A little alcohol could reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke or diabetes, according to the study.

The study authors stress the need to create alcohol guidelines specifically for men under 40, as they are most likely to be problem drinkers.

Although the report found that the risks were similar for men and women, it noted that men are more likely to drink alcohol: they are more likely to drink and they drink significantly more than women in their age category.

“Our message is simple: Young people shouldn’t drink, but older people can benefit from drinking small amounts,” said Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou, lead author of the study and a professor at the University College of Medicine. University of Washington.

“While it’s not realistic to think that young adults will abstain from drinking, we believe it’s important to communicate the latest evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health,” he said. she said in a press release about the study.

What they studied

The “disease burden” of any age group largely depended on regional differences, so the risk from alcohol consumption was also different, especially for people over 40. The health risk from alcohol consumption is different in regions where heart disease is more common, or where certain cancers are often found.

For example, the report determined that for people aged 55 to 59 in North Africa and the Middle East, alcohol-related health risks occur with just one standard drink. But in central sub-Saharan Africa, the risks started at around half of a standard drink.

“Understanding the variation in the level of alcohol consumption that minimizes the risk of health loss for populations can help establish effective drinking guidelines, support alcohol control policies, track progress in reducing of harmful alcohol use and craft messages about public health risks,” Dana Bryazka, lead study author and researcher at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said. in the press release.

The study had some limitations, according to the report, including not examining drinking habits. This meant the researchers couldn’t say whether the results were different for those who drank heavily on rare occasions compared to those who drank the same total amount spread over several days.

They also noted that alcohol consumption was self-reported and might not be completely accurate.

Finally, the study did not include alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic “due to pandemic-related delays in routine data collection, which could also have affected these estimates,” the report says. report.

Dueling results

Fortune noted a few previous studies with similar results:

  • A 2021 study from the University of Oxford, yet to be peer-reviewed, that showed there is “no safe dose of alcohol” for brain health.
  • An Irish study in May that found alcohol may pose greater risks to the heart than previously believed.

But Newsweek’s report on the study noted “considerable debate over the health effects of alcohol consumption, with seemingly contradictory published evidence, leading to confusion among the general public, for example, as to whether red wine is good or bad for them”.

The findings show “the importance of alcohol recommendations tailored to specific regions and populations,” Amanda Berger, vice president of science and health for the United States Distilled Spirits Council trade group, told CNN. about the new report. “It’s important to note that no one should drink alcohol to get potential health benefits, and some people shouldn’t drink at all.”

Not everyone agrees that drinking alcohol has health benefits. CNN quoted a written statement from Dr Tony Rao, Visiting Clinical Research Fellow at King’s College London: “We know that any supposed health benefits of alcohol on the heart and circulation are outweighed by the increased risk of ‘other conditions such as cancer, liver disease and mental disorders such as depression and dementia.