Health: Study suggests people over 40 can benefit from very limited alcohol intake

MADRID.- In general terms, Consuming alcohol is bad for your health, and the more the worse it is. However, in some special cases, there may be exceptions. This is one of the findings of a large published study last Thursday in The Lancet of the study of the global burden of disease. Analyzing 22 health indicators, ranging from cardiovascular disease to traffic accidents or cancer, they took data for men and women aged 15-95 in 204 countries from 1990 to 2020. As in previous studies, for people up to age 40, healthy alcohol consumption is zero. However, some people over this age may have some cardiovascular health or diabetes benefits from consuming small amounts of alcohol daily, equivalent to between one and two glasses of wine. This result, although due to a minimal variation in the way the data were processed, qualifies the conclusions of a previous study Posted in The Lancet in which safe drinking was considered zero for all age groups.

The explanation would be that alcohol, because of the ethanol it contains, increases the production of good cholesterol and has activity on the endothelium which may be beneficial against conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes. However, according to Iñaki Galán, a researcher at the National Epidemiology Center (CNE) of the Carlos III Health Institute who was not involved in the study, “At the same time, this alcohol consumption can increase the risk of other diseases such as breast or colorectal cancer or traffic accidents, which increase with small consumption”. “I think it is better to recommend zero consumption as the safest,” concludes Galán. Juan Turnes, head of the Digestive Diseases Department of the University Hospital Complex of Pontevedra and representative of the Spanish Association for the Study of the Liver, considers the study very useful and comprehensive in understanding the effects of alcohol on health. in a world way but calls for caution in interpreting these results to apply them to individual recommendations. “Even if there was a healthy consumption of alcohol, we have the problem that it is addictive and it is ethically questionable to recommend consuming one or two drinks as we understand them medically, which is less than what the population considers it a drink”, he explains. “It’s hard that it doesn’t increase over time,” he adds.

Emmanuela Gakidou, professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the University of Washington and coordinator of the work, sums up her message:Young people should not drink, but older people can benefit from small amounts. Although it is unrealistic to think that young people will abstain from drinking, we believe that it is important to communicate the latest scientific evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health,” he concludes. In addition, Dana Briazka, also a researcher at the University of Washington and co-author, warns that those responsible for the study they do not suggest “drinking more alcohol to prevent disease, nor can they make individual-level recommendations based on the results of this study.”

The published analysis shows that 1.34 billion people consumed harmful amounts of alcohol during the study period. Among them, men abound much more than women: 1030 million against 312. Those who consume the least alcoholic beverages are men, especially those under 40 years old. In this age group, which accounts for 59.1% of all people who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, 76.7% were male. These results indicate that this group of people is the one that should focus greater effort to mitigate the harm of this substance in the population. In addition, the authors consider that the recommendations on alcohol consumption should be revised in order to reduce the maximum amounts recommended for young people. In this age group, more than health complications, the main risk comes from traffic accidents and other damages derived from dangerous behaviors related to alcohol consumption.

In the age groups where there could be benefits, for men between 40 and 64 years old, the amount of alcohol from which health damage has been observed reaches up to 1.69 drinks for them and 1.82 for women. Among people over 65, the margin is somewhat higher, reaching 3.19 for men and 3.51 for women. In any case, there are variations between regions of the world and the authors remind that when setting guidelines, it is necessary to consider the prevalence of different diseases in different parts of the world. In some Asian countries, for example, high rates of hepatitis infection make alcohol consumption more harmful than in areas where the virus is not as widespread.

By Daniel Mediavilla


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