Alcohol more harmful to the under-40s, report

Some of the alcoholic products at Eaglenest in Nakuru. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

About 1.3 billion people around the world risk their health by taking excessive amount of alcohol, a report by Lancet has revealed. The report, released on July 15, further indicates that 59 per cent of heavy drinkers aged between 15 and 39, exposed themselves to risks such as car accidents, suicide and murders.

It further states that if you are 40 or older, and without underlying health conditions, any small amount of alcohol might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes.

The findings of the study looked at the risk of alcohol consumption on 22 health outcomes, including injuries, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers, using 2020 Global Burden of Disease data.

The researchers further combed through 30 years of data on people aged 15 to 95 globally and also data gathered by the institute's Global Burden of Diseases (GBD).

They also analysed injuries, and risks factor study - a rolling project based at the University of Washington in Seattle, which produces the most comprehensive data on the causes of illness and death in the world.

However, it was established that more than two-thirds of men aged 40 or above, who do not have any underlying health conditions, may benefit from limited alcohol consumption. "If they consume such a small glass of red wine a day, it will reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes.

"So when you look at the cumulative health impact, particularly among older adults, it shows that a small amount is actually better than no drinking,” read part of the report that has been published on the Lancet website.

The study, the first to report alcohol risk by global geographical region, age, sex and year, established that alcohol-related diseases just happen to be major causes of death in a good chunk of the world.

Four years ago, however, the study noted that even the occasional drink was harmful to health, and suggested that governments advise people to abstain entirely. But the researchers observed that it would not be easy for governments to achieve that.

After analysing the global data, the experts concluded that younger people faced higher health risks from alcohol consumption than older adults.

The study found out the amount of alcohol a person could drink without increasing health risks throughout a lifetime is a 100ml glass of 13 per cent -alcohol red wine or a 375ml can or bottle of 3.5 per cent beer.

Among those aged 40 to 64, safe alcohol consumption levels ranged from about half a standard drink a day to almost two standard drinks.

For those aged 65 or older, the risks of “health loss from alcohol consumption” was reached after consuming a little more than three standard drinks a day and also the fact that most of them, if not all, are usually under drugs, and consumption of alcohol may be more detrimental.

“But on average, the recommended alcohol intake for adults over the age of 40 remained low, peaking at 1.87 standard drinks a day. After that the health risks increased with each drink,” the Lancet reported added.

Alarmingly, the study showed that consumption of seven or more units of alcohol a week was associated with higher iron levels in the brain. "Iron in the brain has been linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and is a potential mechanism for alcohol-related cognitive decline," the report stated.

The report said one should have at least three free days from alcohol consumption if they care about their health. “While it may not be realistic to think young adults will abstain from drinking, we do think it’s important to communicate the latest evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health,” concluded the report.

The report also noted that women were more susceptible to alcohol-related brain damage and heart disease than men. It showed that women who have one drink a day increase their risk of breast cancer by 5 per cent to 9 per cent, compared with those who abstain.

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