That after-work cocktail or monthly trip to a brewery can’t hurt, right?
According to a report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, moderate drinking may not be so healthy.
Researchers analyzed 87 studies that found moderate drinking had health benefits.
However, Tim Stockwell, Ph.D., lead researcher and director of the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research in British Columbia, says many of the studies are flawed in their design.
Studies often compare moderate drinkers (people who have up to two drinks per day) with people who don’t drink. Stockwell pointed out that the abstainers include people in poor health who do not drink.
When Stockwell’s team adjusted study design issues, including the bias of abstainers, he concluded that moderate drinkers were not living longer.
Just 13 of the 87 studies, he said, did not have a bias toward the abstainer comparison group or show any health benefits connected to moderate drinking.
Stockwell said occasional drinkers (people who have less than one drink per week) lived the longest. He also said it’s unlikely that their infrequent drinking was actually linked to longevity.
“Those people would be getting a biologically insignificant dose of alcohol,” Stockwell said in a statement.
To Drink or Not to Drink?
Is it time to stop drinking red wine with dinner? Not necessarily.
The latest analysis did not examine whether certain types of alcohol were linked to longer life. However, if some drinks proved to be better for you that might change things.
Stockwell has his doubts.
“There's a general idea out there that alcohol is good for us because that's what you hear reported all the time,” he said. “But there are many reasons to be skeptical.”
Not all studies tout the health benefits of moderate drinking. Several have found it decreases the number of brain cells and can damage the heart, among other ailments.
A 2009 study reported that despite moderate drinking’s link to lower mortality, the health benefits of moderate drinking have been overestimated. The authors also cited the abstainer factor in their research.
“There are many conflicting studies and stories in the media so it’s easy to be confused,” Professor Tanya Chikritzhs, Ph.D., a co-author of the study and head of the alcohol policy research team at Australia’s National Drug Research Institute, told Healthline. “Take the precautionary approach and tend toward less rather than more.”
She recommends that people drink at the level of their own enjoyment — not because they’ve heard drinking may be healthy.
Also, if you don’t drink and are looking for extra health benefits, don’t start drinking.
“There are plenty of proven, safer ways to improve your health,” Chikritzhs said.