Drinking more than a small glass of beer a day could pose health risks for men under 40, a study has found, as researchers urge young adults to avoid alcohol.
And a safe daily limit for women aged 39 and under is the equivalent of two tablespoons of wine or 100ml of beer, according to research.
But those over 40 can toast their health with a drink or two, as academics have found that a small amount of alcohol can help prevent heart disease, stroke and diabetes in this group. of age.
The researchers said young people face higher health risks from alcohol consumption than older adults.
They called for stronger advice to warn young adults of the health dangers posed by alcohol consumption and said there should be age-appropriate alcohol advice person and where they live in the world.
Some 1.34 billion people are estimated to have consumed harmful amounts of alcohol in 2020, according to analysis of drinking patterns in 204 countries around the world.
The study, published in The Lancet, found that 59% of those who drank harmful amounts were people aged 15 to 39 – for whom alcohol provides no health benefits and poses risks including alcohol-related injuries or car accidents, suicides or murders.
And three-quarters of harmful drinkers were men.
Lead author Dr Emmanuela Gakidou, professor of health measurement sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in the US, said: “Our message is simple: young people should not drink , but older people may benefit from consuming small amounts.
“While it may not be realistic to think that young adults will abstain from drinking, we believe it is important to communicate the latest evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health.”
Researchers looked at the risk of alcohol consumption on 22 health conditions, including injuries, cardiovascular disease and cancers, using 2020 Global Burden of Disease data.
Using this information, the researchers were able to estimate how much alcohol a person can drink before taking an excessive risk to their health compared to someone who does not drink alcohol.
They found that the level of alcohol that can be consumed without increasing health risks increases throughout life.
“This is due to differences in leading causes of death and disease burden at different ages,” the authors wrote.
“Any level of alcohol consumption leads to a higher likelihood of injury, while small amounts of alcohol decrease the risk of certain conditions prevalent in older people, such as ischemic heart disease and diabetes.”
The researchers considered a standard drink to be a 100ml glass of 13% wine or 375ml of 3.5% beer.
– For men aged 15-39, the recommended amount of alcohol before “risking losing your health” was just 0.136 standard drinks. This equates to approximately 10ml of wine – or two standard teaspoons – or 38ml of beer, the equivalent of a small shot glass.
– For women aged 15 to 39, the “theoretical minimum risk exposure level” was 0.273 drinks, or about a quarter of a standard drink per day. This is equivalent to about two tablespoons of wine or about 100 ml of beer.
– For adults aged 40 and older without any underlying health conditions, drinking a small amount of alcohol was associated with some health benefits, such as reduced risk of ischemic heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
– Among people aged 40 to 64, safe drinking levels ranged from about half a standard drink per day to almost two standard drinks.
– For people aged 65 and over, the risks of “loss of health due to alcohol consumption” were reached after consuming just over three standard drinks a day.
– On average, the recommended alcohol consumption for adults over 40 has remained low, peaking at 1.87 standard drinks per day, and after that the health risks increase with each drink.
Lead author Dana Briazka, a research fellow at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said:
“Even if a conservative approach is taken and the lowest level of safe drinking is used to set policy recommendations, this implies that the recommended level of alcohol consumption is still too high for younger populations.
“Our estimates, based on currently available evidence, support guidelines that differ by age and region.
“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 consumption and to design public health risk messages.”