We Shouldn’t Be Drinking Alcohol at All Until We’re 40, Says New Study

Drink alcohol

In case you needed one more reason to quit drinking or at least drink less, a new global study has found alcohol to carry significant health risks and zero benefits for people aged under 40.

The finding came from the largest study of its kind, the Global Burden of Diseases study. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by the University of Washington in Seattle, the rolling project has produced the most comprehensive data on the causes of illnesses and death in the world. In other words, the study is an extremely reliable source.

Interestingly the research, published in The Lancet medical journal, found some people over 40 without underlying health conditions actually had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes, if they drank a little, like a small glass of red wine a day.

Among those aged 40 to 64, safe alcohol consumption levels ranged from roughly half a standard drink a day to almost two standard drinks. On average, the recommended alcohol intake for adults over the age of 40 was low, peaking at 1.87 standard drink a day, before the health risks increased with each drink.

Alcohol effect on mental health
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The research is the first to report alcohol risk by geographical region, age, sex and year. It suggests that global alcohol consumption recommendations should be based on age and location, with the strictest guidelines for men aged 15 to 39 who are at the greatest risk of harmful alcohol consumption worldwide.

Related: Alcohol’s Effect On Your Mental Health Goes Beyond ‘Hangxiety’

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“Our message is simple: young people should not drink, but older people may benefit from drinking small amounts,” said the senior author, Dr Emmanuela Gakidou, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.

“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.”

The Guardian noted separate research published in the journal PLOS Medicine this month found that drinking seven or more units of alcohol a week was associated with higher iron levels in the brain. Not ideal considering iron in the brain has been linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

“The emerging science on alcohol, over hundreds of studies over the past 20 years, is telling us very clearly that alcohol is very damaging to the human body in multiple ways,” said Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK.

“We were previously unaware of this, and too many of us continue to drink as though this revolution in our knowledge hasn’t happened. If you care about your health, by far the best approach is not to drink at all.”

If you do choose to drink, Dr Piper suggested you follow the UK’s chief medical officers’ advice and have no more than 14 units a week, which equates to six pints of lager or a bottle and a half of wine.

“Have at least three alcohol-free days a week, and never exceed more than six units in one day,” he added.

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