Boozehounds around the world have long touted studies that proclaim moderate alcohol consumption can lead to a longer life. The definition of "moderate" has varied by study and location, but the thirsty and health-conscious have assumed a couple of drinks per day would pay off in the long run. Now, according to new research published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, it appears that might not be the case.
The findings, produced by researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, determine previous studies that have propped up the moderate-drinking theory had significant issues. The researchers analyzed 87 such peer-reviewed studies and learned adjustments needed to be made for "abstainer biases and quality-related study characteristics" — particularly, many studies did not separate life-long non-drinkers from former and occasional drinkers. Once those adjustments were taken into account, "no significant reduction in mortality risk was observed for low-volume drinkers."
"Estimates of mortality risk from alcohol are significantly altered by study design and characteristics," reads the researchers' conclusion. "Meta-analyses adjusting for these factors find that low-volume alcohol consumption has no net mortality benefit compared with lifetime abstention or occasional drinking."
This latest news follows another buzzkill of a report from the United Kingdom government in January, which called into question red wine's health benefits. The UK's chief medical officer issued new guidelines for alcohol consumption that warn drinking any amount of alcohol increases the risk of a number of types of cancer. And, the report declared red wine's supposed boost for heart health applies only to women 55 and older.
Dr. Tim Stockwell, lead author of the Journal's study, told Bloomberg his team's analysis was meant to prompt researchers to look at the topic in a new light: "In fairness to the journals, this is a contested area, and it's an illustration of how subjective the peer-review process is," Stockwell said. "We hope our contribution is to put the skepticism back in there."