Health Benefits of Moderate Drinking May Be Overestimated
Not all factors considered in previous studies, researchers say
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A review of 52,891 British people found little to no health benefit linked to alcohol consumption, once the results were adjusted for a range of personal, social, economic, and lifestyle factors. The findings were published Feb. 10 in The BMJ.
The researchers compared interview data from the annual Health Survey for England with national death records, analyzing the drinking habits and health of 52,891 people aged 50 and older. Compared with people who never drank, any protective benefits from alcohol were largely limited to men aged 50 to 64 who reported having an average 15 to 20 drinks a week, and women 65 and older who had an average 10 drinks or less per week, the investigators found.
Most of alcohol's benefits evaporated after factoring in various definitions of occasional drinking, as well as a range of other personal and social influences, the study authors noted. "Based on the findings from this study, alcohol consumption appears to confer little to no protection against mortality in most age-sex groups," study author Craig Knott, a research associate in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, told HealthDay. "Importantly, former drinkers appear to be less healthy and at greater risk of mortality than never drinkers," he said. "On this basis, it seems sensible for current drinkers to consider moderating the amount of alcohol they consume, and for non-drinkers to remain abstinent."
The potential benefits of alcohol must be weighed against the increased risk of cancer, liver disease, and other illnesses associated with drinking, Knott said. "Even if alcohol did turn out to be protective against a certain condition, it may also increase your risk of developing other health complaints," he noted.