Moderate drinking may not lengthen life

September 18, 2001 in Healthy Eating

Moderate drinking may not lengthen life

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may not have the health benefits of long life that have been previously asserted, due to flaws in research methods, say Japanese researchers from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Sendai, Japan.

Several previous studies have demonstrated that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol seems to reduce death. However, the investigators point out that those studies have a methodological flaw: they generally compare drinkers with non-drinkers, but fail to distinguish between those who never drank alcohol and those who quit drinking for health reasons. Lumping non-drinkers with ill health into the group that abstains from alcohol entirely may produce findings of an elevated mortality risk seemingly associated with not drinking.

The investigators questioned more than 22,000 men aged 40 to 69 in northern Japan on their drinking frequency in 1990, and then tracked the men until 1997. By separating the two groups of non-drinkers, they found that ex-drinkers did have a higher risk of mortality than non-drinkers and that moderate drinkers did not actually have decreased mortality when compared with those who had never been drinkers. Their results shows the protective effect of moderate drinking is seriously exaggerated.

However, the protective affect of moderate drinking on reducing coronary heart disease has been well established and was also noted in the study.

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