Moderate Drinking May Not Extend Life After All

Design flaws and biases found in analysis of 87 studies
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2016 4:55 PM CDT
Moderate Drinking May Not Extend Life After All
A bartender pours a drink into a glass made out of ice inside an ice pub in Prague, Czech Republic, on Aug. 6, 2015.   (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Those of us sticking to two glasses of wine a night because of the benefits of moderate drinking may have to stop gloating: Scientists now say that moderate drinking might not help you live longer after all, NPR reports. In a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, University of Victoria researchers took a closer look at 87 studies that link moderate drinking—one to three drinks a day—to everything from a lower risk of heart disease to longevity, per a press release. What scientists found is that many of those studies suffered design flaws and biases, casting what Dr. Timothy Naimi tells NPR is a "great deal of skepticism on this long, cherished belief that moderate drinking has a survival advantage." Scientists note participants are typically separated into groups of heavy, moderate, occasional, and non-drinkers—which is where the first problem comes into play.

Naimi points out the non-drinking group often contains those who have always abstained, as well as those who quit drinking after suffering health problems, which could bring the health of the group down overall. Scientists also note that moderate drinkers are usually healthier because they tend to be more affluent and better educated. When issues such as these are addressed, moderate drinkers showed "no survival advantage," Naimi tells NPR. The group that fared the best in the reanalysis: occasional drinkers who averaged one drink every 10 days or so. "Those people would be getting a biologically insignificant dose of alcohol" to account for longevity, lead researcher Tim Stockwell says. These new results sync up with the wariness of the CDC and others to give a thumbs-up to alcohol. "That's always been a fallacious argument, and it's really been reduced to nothing now," a physician not involved with the study tells NPR. (Someone should fill in this Pacific Standard writer.)

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