Moderate drinking still bad for you

It's the news that stressed professionals have been dreading - even a glass of wine with dinner to help you relax will do you more harm than good, according to a new study.

Scientists say there is no real evidence to back up the popular view that the occasional tipple leads to lower heart disease risk and a longer life.

They analysed 87 previous studies, including ones that said alcohol brought benefits and concluded that the evidence was ‘shaky’ at best.

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They said many of these studies came to ‘flawed’ conclusions, suggesting benefits when there were likely none to be had.

Dr Tim Stockwell, the lead researcher and director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research in British Columbia, Canada, said: “There’s a general idea out there that alcohol is good for us, because that’s what you hear reported all the time, but there are many reasons to be sceptical.

“Studies have linked moderate drinking to an implausibly wide range of health benefits.

“Compared with abstainers, for instance, moderate drinkers have shown lower risks of deafness and even liver cirrhosis.

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“Either alcohol is a panacea or moderate drinking is really a marker of something else.

“Many people believe a glass of wine with dinner will help them live longer and healthier, but the scientific evidence is shaky at best.”

The new study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, claims a key issue is how studies have defined abstainers.

In many cases they found that these people didn’t drink, but were in poor health, so comparing them to moderate drinkers, defined as having a couple of drinks a day, made the moderate drinkers appear far more healthy than they really were.

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When the researchers corrected for those abstainer “biases” and certain other study-design issues, moderate drinkers no longer showed a longevity advantage.

In fact, only 13 of the 87 studies avoided biasing the abstainer comparison group and these showed no health benefits.

Dr Stockwell added: “What’s more, before those corrections were made, it was actually ‘occasional’ drinkers, people who had less than one drink per week, who lived the longest.

“And it’s unlikely that such an infrequent drinking would be the reason for their longevity as those people would be getting a biologically insignificant dose of alcohol.

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“The study did not look at whether certain types of alcohol such as red wine, are tied to longer life.

“But if that were the case, it would be unlikely that the alcohol content itself deserved the credit.”

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