Study busts myth about alcohol
While an occasional glass of wine is unlikely to increase your chances of a trip to the emergency room, an extended analysis of close to five million people has concluded that even low levels of alcohol consumption offers next to no health benefits and can drastically increase the chances of developing serious health complaints.
A study published on Friday on the Jama Network Open, which compiled data collected from various studies between 1980 and 2021, debunks commonly held beliefs that moderate drinking can be good for the heart. Studies had in the past suggested that the Mediterranean diet, which traditionally includes regular intake of red wine, contributed to long and healthy lives – but this theory was built upon a foundation of flawed science according to a co-author of the study.
“The idea that alcohol is good for your health is ingrained in so many cultures,” said Tim Stockwell, former director at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. He added that the misconception that wine “somehow has magic properties” was a “publicity coup” for the alcoholic beverage industry.
The findings of the meta-analysis of 107 prior studies, which incorporated some 4.8 million people, concluded that prior research came with several blind spots: principally, that moderate drinkers are generally considered to engage in healthier activities than heavy drinkers. This, in turn, skewed previous results towards a conclusion that moderate drinking lowers the risk of developing health complaints.
The study also found that some people abstain from alcohol as a result of pre-existing health problems – leading to an analytical bias that not drinking leads to medical issues not present in those who consume alcohol.
“Being able to drink is a sign that you are still healthy,” Stockwell said. “Not the cause of it.”
However, researchers also found that people who had two drinks per day or less had no discernible increase in health risks compared to lifetime non-drinkers – but heavy drinkers, defined as three drinks per day or more, are subject to far higher mortality risks.
Excessive drinking is known to increase risk of various health maladies, such as cancer, liver disease, dementia and cardiovascular disease. Stockwell has also estimated that moderate drinkers lose about five minutes of their life expectancy with each daily drink.