Cutting down on alcohol content in beer can save lives, new study suggests
Reducing the alcohol content in beer as well as other alcoholic beverages to an extent can decrease its harmful effects, suggests a new study.
Alcohol accounts for significant death and disability worldwide. Among those aged 20-39, nearly one-quarter of deaths can be attributed to alcohol, according to the World Health Organisation.
"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.