Drinking for Your Health Isn’t Really a Thing, Study Finds

Drinking for Your Health Isn’t Really a Thing, Study Finds

A new study is the latest to suggest that moderate alcohol consumption is unlikely to confer any health benefits. The research, a review of existing studies, found no strong evidence that light to moderate drinking can reduce people’s risk of dying early. Past studies that found a positive effect may have failed to account for the poorer health of former drinkers and other factors, the scientists say.

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Chronic, heavy drinking has long been linked to health problems, from early-onset dementia to liver cancer. At the same time, there has been an ongoing debate over the health risks and potential benefits of less steady drinking. Some studies have suggested that light to moderate drinking may protect against early death or heart disease, for example. Recently, however, the consensus seems to be turning against this conclusion. A study last year found an increased risk of cardiovascular disease with all levels of alcohol consumption, for example. Another study that same month found a link between moderate drinking and reduced brain volume.

The new research, published late last week in JAMA Network Open, was conducted by scientists in Canada and the United Kingdom. It is an update of a previous review by the same group published in 2016, and looks at data from studies up to July 2021.

Overall, they reviewed more than 100 studies that analyzed mortality risk and alcohol, which together included nearly 5 million people. Notably, they also attempted to adjust for factors that may have influenced the results of previous studies. Many people who are currently abstaining from alcohol, for example, are known to have stopped drinking because they are in poorer health or perhaps because of their previous drinking – a phenomenon called the “sick dropout effect”. Including these quitters in the same group as lifetime abstainers and then comparing them to light and moderate drinkers may bias the analysis in a way that makes alcohol appear healthier than it is. indeed.

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As expected, heavier drinking (more than three drinks per day on average) was associated with a significantly higher risk of dying earlier. But in the team’s adjusted model, there was no statistically significant effect on mortality — either good or bad — associated with light or moderate drinking. Women also appeared to fare worse overall, as their higher risk of dying began at lower levels of alcohol consumption than men.

“This updated meta-analysis did not find a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality associated with low-volume alcohol consumption after adjusting for potential confounding effects of influential study characteristics,” the review authors wrote. They also argue that occasional drinkers should be used as the baseline comparison group for future alcohol-related studies from now on, given how difficult it can be to account for the effect of ill dropout and other biases.

This study and others still show that heavy drinking poses a much higher risk of problems compared to light/moderate drinking. And there seems to be conflicting evidence about whether regular light drinking is bad for you in any major way. But at the very least, these new findings show there’s no such thing as drinking for your health.

Meanwhile, there is a lot of real harm that can come from our collective drinking habit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that alcohol is responsible for one in eight deaths of Americans between the ages of 20 and 65 per year, or nearly 90,000 deaths per year. Other research has found that one in five Americans is injured by another person’s drinking each year.

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