New Delhi, July 16
New research suggests there is nothing like low-health-risk drinking for youngsters though small amounts may be beneficial for some older adults.
In a first, authors of the study published in the Lancet on Friday challenge the existing knowledge on the amount of alcohol youngsters can consume without inviting health risks and say recommendations for how much one can drink should be based on age and local disease rates rather than sex.
“We provide clear evidence that the level of alcohol consumption that minimises health loss remains zero or very close to zero for several population groups, particularly young adults aged 15 to 39. Small amounts of alcohol consumption are associated with improved health outcomes in some populations who predominantly face a high burden of cardiovascular diseases, particularly older adults in many world regions. We recommend a modification of existing policy guidelines to focus on emphasising differential consumption levels by age, rather than the current practice of recommending different consumption levels by sex,” say the authors who used estimates of alcohol use in 204 countries.
Importantly, no study to date has examined the variation in the theoretical minimum risk exposure level (TMREL) of alcohol consumption by geography, age, sex and time, conditioned on background rates of disease.
TMREL represents the level of consumption that minimises health loss from alcohol for a population while non-drinker equivalence (NDE) level measures the level of alcohol consumption at which the risk of health loss for a drinker is equivalent to that of a nondrinker.
The latest research highlights the importance of prioritising interventions targeted at minimising alcohol consumption among young adults with the authors saying “youngsters should not drink.”
They found that the population-level health risks associated with low levels of alcohol consumption were far greater for younger populations than for older populations.
Notably, 1.03 billion males and 312 million females drank harmful amounts of alcohol in excess of the NDE in 2020. Among those consuming harmful amounts of alcohol in 2020, 59.1 per cent were aged 15–39 and 76.9 per cent were male.
“These findings highlight the need for tailored guidelines that discourage alcohol consumption among young people,” the authors say.
Currently, most alcohol consumption guidelines for the general population combine recommendations to avoid alcohol use with the definition of lower-risk alcohol consumption thresholds, which tend to vary between 8g and 42g of alcohol per day for females, and between 10g and 52g of alcohol per day for males.
Generally, thresholds are one standard drink greater for men than for women.
“In our analysis, the population-specific TMRELs ranged between 0 and 0.603 standard drinks per day among individuals aged 15–39 across world regions, and the NDEs ranged between 0 and 1.75 standard drinks per day among individuals aged 15-39 years across world regions in 2020. Even if a conservative approach is taken, this implies that the recommended level of alcohol consumption in existing low-consumption recommendations is too high for younger populations,” notes the study.
Emmanuela Gakido, senior author, says, “While it may not be realistic to think young adults will abstain from drinking, it is important to communicate the latest evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health.”
Is defined as 10 grams of pure alcohol which equals 100 ml of red wine at 13 per cent alcohol by volume; a can or bear bottle of 375 ml at 3.5 per cent alcohol by volume, or a whisky shot 30 ml at 40 per cent alcohol by volume.