A recent study debunks the long-held myth that (“moderate”) alcohol consumption is beneficial for a person’s health.
Studies have and keep reporting that wine is good for the heart. And the alcohol industry does what it can to perpetuate that myth – so Western culture has come to accept and embrace it. However, many of such studies also fail to look at research that says otherwise.
In fact, one research of note states that abstaining from alcohol consumption, even for just a month, will boost health immensely. Study subjects had significantly improved sleeping patterns, concentration, and weight management.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. It reviewed 87 long-term studies, which involved about 4 million participants, including more than 350,000 mortalities.
Biased studies claim alcohol’s health benefit
The analysis, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, showed how previous studies that claimed alcohol has health benefits had a significant bias in the comparison of alcohol consumption and mortality, which greatly affected the findings.
The study’s co-author, Tim Stockwell says that the bias arose from how abstainers were defined. There is no clear cut definition of who are the moderate alcohol users and how are they compared to light and heavy consumers.
We’ve visited an old chestnut in alcohol health research … the idea that below a certain level we might call moderate, alcohol is actually beneficial and means that if you [consume alcohol] at that level you may live longer,” said Stockwell.
Benefits overestimated, dangers underestimated
Stockwell said that the benefits of alcohol consumption were overly estimated. At the same time, the dangers of alcohol use were greatly underestimated.
Previous research focused on studying those whose declining health has pushed them to stop consuming alcohol. Naturally, these study subjects would have a significant health improvement when they stop using alcohol. This makes “moderate” consumers have better life expectancy rates.
When you correct for (that bias) it actually appears that the risks at all levels are higher than previously estimated,” Stockwell explained.
Stockwell clarifies that the research does not say light alcohol use is bad. But he is adamant with the fact that consumers should be more critical of studies that say alcohol consumption improves health and life expectancy. The only ones profiting from the misbelief and misinformation about alcohol’s “health benefits” is the alcohol industry.
In a journal commentary, Jurgen Rehm of the Centre for Addictions Research in Toronto said that light alcohol consumption associated with health benefits is indeed overrated.
In my view, nobody has to start drinking for health reasons,” said Rehm.