Lower Alcohol Content in Beer and Wine Could Reduce Harmful Effects


New research suggests that lowering the alcohol content in beer and wine could reduce the harmful effects of drinking overall. Current estimates suggest that one in four deaths among people age 20 to 39 is connected to alcohol and that drinking accounts for 3.3 million deaths worldwide every year.

By reducing the average ethanol (pure alcohol) content by one percentage point for every drink, those numbers could be drastically reduced, according to researchers at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

“That means we should, for example, reduce the [alcohol] content of beer from an average of 5.5 per cent to an average of 4.5 per cent,” said author and Institute director Jurgen Rehm. “That will not, according to all of the studies we know, [have an] impact on consumers; that they suddenly drink one bottle more of beer, because the consumers usually don’t even notice that. But it will have a tremendous impact on health.”

In other words, you should still plan on two to three drinks per person to serve at a cocktail party. Lowering the concentration of alcohol in their glasses won’t likely have an impact on their ability to enjoy themselves.

Rehm pointed to previous research in Australia where beverages with higher alcohol content were subject to higher tax rates. Consumers began to drink more low-alcohol beer instead of regular, and as a result, alcohol-related deaths and accidents were reduced.

He also argues that it could be good for beverage manufacturers on a public relations level. “They could do some kind of marketing and advertisement around that and say, ‘We are part of the solution,'” he told the CBC. “That is also helpful because the alcohol industry always fears they will be the new tobacco, given the numbers of deaths. So this will raise their public image and will not in any which way reduce their profits.”

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