Studies Touting Alcohol as Good for Health Were Flawed

Analysis finds no benefit to health, but an increased risk of death
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2023 11:11 AM CDT
Studies Touting Alcohol as Good for Health Were Flawed
Mixed drinks named "Peanut Butter Jelly Thyme," left, and a "Best Cup of Coffee in a Manhattan" which contain whiskey distilled on premises, is seen on the cocktail lounge at Baltimore Spirits Company, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, in Baltimore.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction was on to something when it claimed no amount of alcohol consumption is healthy, according to a new analysis of 107 studies of 4.8 million adults published between 1980 and 2021, which debunks the idea that moderate drinking provides benefits for health and longevity. That idea has been around for a century, as the New York Times reports. But it's based on misleading observational studies, author Tim Stockwell of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research tells the outlet. He notes older studies would often compare moderate drinkers, a group that tends to include wealthy people with healthy habits, with abstainers, a group that often included people who'd given up alcohol because of health problems.

Indeed, 86 of the 107 studies considered former drinkers as abstainers, Stockwell tells Fox News. Yet former drinkers have a 22% higher risk of death compared to abstainers, per HealthDay. "When you compare this unhealthy group to those who go on drinking, it makes the current drinkers look more healthy and like they have lower mortality," Stockwell explains, per the Times. In reality, "they have a lot of things going for them that protect their health, that have nothing to do with their alcohol use." When accounting for the differences between the two groups, "the supposed health benefits of drinking shrink dramatically, and become non-statistically significant," Stockwell adds.

The analysis, published Friday in JAMA Network Open, actually found "a significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality among female drinkers who drank 25 or more grams per day and among male drinkers who drank 45 or more grams per day." In the US, a standard drink of 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer represents 14 grams of alcohol. But "these results should not be used to set low-risk drinking limits," Stockwell tells Fox, noting "this was a study of limited, mostly low-quality studies, and we could not remove or adjust for all the flaws they contained." He calls for stronger studies "looking at specific alcohol-caused conditions, such as liver disease or certain cancers, not deaths from all causes." (More alcohol stories.)

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