Health Benefits of Drinking in Moderation May Have Been Exaggerated
While a glass of wine a day is quoted by many as good for your health, new research has suggested that the benefits of a daily alcoholic drink may have been exaggerated.
Past research has linked low-moderate alcohol consumption to general improved health, but the new study’s lead author Craig Knott, from University College London’s Epidemiology and Public Health Department, says that results were affected by potentially problematic categorising of the participants. The researchers highlighted that those who were drinkers in the past but become non-drinkers tend to be less healthy than others, so their inclusion in the non-drinker category skews the results of those who have never been consistent drinkers. They also pointed out that a number of people who never drink alcohol may abstain because of existing health conditions which could make drinking unsafe.
“With existing research having largely grouped former and never drinkers together, there was the possibility that reductions in risk among lighter drinkers may be partly due to their comparison against people who are simply less healthy,” says Knott.
Knott and his fellow researchers looked at the results of nationally-representative surveys with information on over 45,000 English adults, in which participants detailed how much alcohol they drank per week and how much they drank on the heaviest drinking day of a typical week. They assessed how these results were affected when former drinkers were not included at all. When light, moderate and heavy drinkers were compared only to those who drink occasionally at most, they found drinking to have almost no health benefits. Some protective effect from alcohol could still be seen only in women over the age of 65 and men between the ages of 50 and 65. Even amongst these few, the protection was very much minimal.
“Relative to occasional drinkers, there was little to no indication that regular light consumption may actually be of benefit in any age-sex group, at least in terms of mortality risk,” says Knott.
He added that there are various biases which could explain any reductions in risk, even after personal, socio-economic and lifestyle factors have been accounted for.
“On this basis, it seems sensible for current drinkers to consider moderating the amount of alcohol they consume, and for non-drinkers to remain abstinent,” he says.
“Let’s face it: alcohol is not consumed for health reasons. To avoid too much risk, people should drink lightly, best one drink at most per day. Most European drinkers exceed this limit and put themselves at risk,” says Jürgen Rehm of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada. “Nobody should drink alcohol for health reasons.”