Alcohol: Studies showing benefits of drinking flawed, research warns

Experts have questioned the idea that drinking alcohol can prolong life

Studies which suggest that drinking alcohol moderately has health benefits are flawed, according to new research. 

Previous studies have suggested that drinking alcohol, for example a glass of wine, can cut the risk of heart disease.

However, a study reviewing 87 past research papers concluded that the idea that drinking at a reasonable level was flawed.

Canadian researchers claimed that the studies were biased, poorly designed and pointed to positive effects that were unlikely in reality.

The team behind the study published in the ‘Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs’ also highlighted concerns about groups of “abstainers” who were compared to moderate drinkers, despite giving up drinking due to ill health. 

This meant that those who were classed as drinking occasionally, at fewer than one drink per week, lived the longest.

But by taking into account study design issues, such as the abstainers, researchers found that moderate drinking had no link to longevity. 

And Dr Stockwell said he doubted that drinking infrequently was the reasons that “occasional” drinkers had lower mortality rates because the level of alcohol in their bodies was “biologically insignificant”.

“A fundamental question is, who are these moderate drinkers being compared against?” said lead author Dr Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research in British Columbia, Canada.

Of the 87 studies assessed, only 13 did not have an issue with the selection of abstainers. 

Therefore, alcohol should not be linked to people being healthier, said Dr Stockwell. 

The study assessed health in terms of drinking in general, rather than specific types of drink. 

Dr Stockwell 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.”

Dr Harshal Kirane, director of Addiction Services at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, who was not involved with the study, told CBS News that the research “highlights the limitations of past efforts to characterize the impact of low-volume alcohol use.”

He told CBS News that authors have highlighted “pitfalls in the current literature.”

Additional reporting by PA 

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