A small group of experts has been saying it for years: alcohol makes you weaker, not stronger.
This new research shows that there are zero benefits—only risks—to drinking alcohol when you are aged 15-39. Even if you’re just having a glass of wine with dinner. Yes, it tastes good and it’s fine, but it has no benefits and it’s bad for your brain.
It’s why I almost never drink—it’s not worth the cost to my mental and physical performance. When I do drink, it’s really good alcohol, and I don’t drink very much, and I do the stuff below to prevent the harm.
Over the past few decades, some (alcohol industry-funded) research suggested that 1-2 drinks of alcohol can be good for you. Those studies found that moderate drinkers live longer and have better cardiovascular health. They were correlation studies, which means there was no proof that the alcohol created the effect.
According to this latest research, though, you definitely don’t see those benefits if you’re under 40[*]. It looked at data from about 1.34 billion participants, spanning more than 200 countries. It’s one of the largest global population studies ever conducted.
If You’re Under 40, Even Moderate Alcohol Zaps Your Performance
The study results were clear: if you’re age 15-39, there are no benefits—only risks—to drinking alcohol, even in moderation.
Alcohol consumption was the number one driver of increased mortality in people aged 15-39. For that age range, even one drink a day increases your risk of:
- Heart attack
- Faster aging
- Shorter lifespan
- Liver problems
The researchers concluded that if you’re under 40, your best bet is to avoid alcohol entirely. (It’s not like you haven’t already heard that here!)
Is Alcohol Okay if You’re Over 40?
If you’re over 40, the news isn’t much better: there are some minor benefits from a single serving of alcohol with dinner in some areas, but a downside in others. Alcohol is correlated with your risk of stroke, heart attack, and diabetes[*] (some can go up, some can go down)
But if you look at brain aging and Alzheimer’s and my friend Dr. Amen‘s work looking at direct brain scans from people who drink alcohol at any age, it’s really clear that you don’t want that drink if you want your brain to work well as you age. I would not trade my focus for a small hypothetical reduction in some other health risk.
No alcohol is good for your performance. Let’s be honest, though: drinking is fun and most of us do it from time to time. If you’re going to drink, some types of alcohol are better than others. Your best bet is to treat alcohol as an occasional indulgence—and when you do drink, hack your alcohol consumption to minimize damage and avoid a hangover. Make sure you get the alcohol info graphic here. It will tell you how.