Cutting down on alcohol content in beer can save lives: Study

A decrease in ethanol, the most harmful ingredient in alcoholic beverages, would be expected to lead to lower blood alcohol levels in drinkers. 

Updated: Aug 11, 2016, 19:23 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Toronto: Beer is the world's most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, however, its negative effects on health is something we're sure everyone's aware of.

Obesity, heart disease risks and high blood pressure are some of the problems that drinkers and/or beer lovers might face if they over-indulge in the alcoholic beverage, since the alcohol content is high. Long term effects can also prove fatal.

Now, a new study has found that reducing the alcohol content in beer as well as other alcoholic beverages to an extent can decrease its harmful effects.

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol accounts for significant death and disability worldwide. Among those aged 20-39, nearly one-quarter of deaths can be attributed to alcohol.

"The idea is that a small reduction in alcohol -- such as beer with four per cent ethanol content versus six per cent -- would reduce alcohol intake per drinker even if the same overall amount of beverage is consumed," said lead author Jurgen Rehm from Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada.

A decrease in ethanol, the most harmful ingredient in alcoholic beverages, would be expected to lead to lower blood alcohol levels in drinkers. And this could reduce immediate harms such as injuries or accidents, as well as alcohol-related chronic diseases that develop over time, such as liver cirrhosis or cancer.

A key concern, however, is that drinkers would notice the difference in alcohol content, and consume more to compensate or switch to other beverages with more alcohol.

So the researchers searched for studies and reviews on all of these points.

The researchers found that such concerns around drinkers' behaviours were not warranted.

"We know from experiments that consumers can't distinguish between beers of different strengths," Rehm said.

The review was published in the journal Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

(With IANS inputs)