A glass of red wine a day. Beer cuts back on cardiovascular disease. Alcohol helps against the common cold.
You’ve probably heard of a lot about the ‘benefits’ of moderate drinking. Turns out, those health tricks may be overstated.
Canadian researchers claim these are myths, and that alcohol offers no net benefits to a person’s health, after reviewing 87 long-term studies on alcohol and death rates.
Despite what was thought to be well-researched, well-known information about drinking, Tim Stockwell of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research in British Columbia took another look at published studies on alcohol and mortality on nearly four million people.
For the study, ‘moderate drinking’ is defined as no more than two standard alcoholic drinks per day for men or one standard drink a day for women, minimum once per week.
“We should drink alcohol for pleasure,” Stockwell said in an interview. “But if you think it’s for your health, you’re deluding yourself.”
The review concluded a “skeptical position is warranted” when it comes to alcohol’s benefits. Stockwell focused on abstainers, and found grouping them with people who quit alcohol, or massively cut back due to health issues; this would skew the results of other studies. He also noted that researchers in other studies that found alcohol to be ‘beneficial’ failed to properly question about alcohol use, and accounting for other protective factors among drinkers, such as wealth and diet.
Jurgen Rehm of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto believes this is an important study. He says there’s huge interest in the protective – or harmful – properties of light drinking for the human body.
Rehm called the message of health benefits from light alcohol consumption “exaggerated”; echoing Stockwell, you shouldn’t drink for health purposes only, but for enjoyment (assuming you understand and accept the risks associated with alcohol).
“In my view, nobody has to start drinking for health reasons,” Rehm said. “Those who drink lightly, if they stick almost religiously to one drink per day, no real problem. I would not advise them to stop.”