Moderate Drinking May Not Lengthen Your Life
But other experts note that numerous studies have shown benefits of alcohol consumption
By Randy Dotinga
TUESDAY, March 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Despite previous studies suggesting a bevy of health benefits, a new analysis challenges the idea that drinking alcohol in moderation might prolong your life.
After reviewing nearly 90 previously completed studies, researchers said that moderate drinkers may not have a survival benefit compared to people who don't drink at all.
"So-called 'moderate' drinkers do not live longer than nondrinkers," said review co-author Tanya Chikritzhs. She is a professor and director of the Alcohol Policy Research team at Australia's National Drug Research Institute.
Not everyone agrees with that conclusion, but some health experts do.
"Scientific data continue to support the premise that small to moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis are consistent with a healthy lifestyle for middle-aged and older adults," said Dr. R. Curtis Ellison, professor of medicine and public health at Boston University School of Medicine.
Chikritzhs and her colleagues contend that previous reviews missed an important limitation: People who abstain from drinking often do so because they're ill. As a result, the researchers said, abstainers are more likely to die earlier, a fact that can throw off findings about the influence of alcohol consumption on life span.
In the new review, the researchers examined 87 studies and removed those that didn't take into account the fact that abstainers may avoid drinking due to illness. After the study authors "corrected" this issue, Chikritzhs said, they found no sign of a life span benefit from moderate drinking.
In addition, she said, "among people who drink, it was actually the 'occasional' drinkers -- those who drank less than a drink every 10 days or so -- who did the best." But, she added, this finding appears to be a statistical fluke because that isn't enough alcohol to influence health.
In addition, she said, "It is becoming clearer that it is much more likely to be the case that being a low or moderate drinker in middle age or older is a marker of good health, not a cause of it."
In the big picture, Chikritzhs said, "alcohol is a legal substance that many people enjoy, and that's fine. But when it comes to health or thinking of alcohol as some sort of 'medicine,' even low doses are unlikely to prevent death."