What’s the Truth About Alcohol and Your Health?

Loads of studies have concluded that moderate drinking isn’t just okay, but good for us. A new meta-analysis looked at 87 of those studies and found some crucial flaws.

As a moderate drinker myself, I would like nothing more than to believe that the glass of wine (or two) at the end of a stressful day is actually as healthy as the kale I had with†supper. In fact, I’ve written about past studies that have shown a link between moderate drinking and improved health outcomes. Here’s one on alcohol and bone health and another on moderate vs. heavy drinking. But a new study, published in the Journal of Study on Alcohol and Drugs,†found that, chances are, that occasional cold beer isn’t†benefiting your health like you thought.

A new meta-analysis looked at 87 studies of alcohol and health and found some crucial flaws. What's the truth about alcohol and your health?
†† A new meta-analysis looked at 87 studies of alcohol and health and found some crucial flaws. What’s the truth about alcohol and your health?

The main flaw that the researchers found is in the control group: the alcohol “abstainers.” The studies they analyzed tended to have a pretty loose definition of abstainer. The control group was currently†abstaining from alcohol, but that didn’t mean they were in good health or that they weren’t moderate or even heavy drinkers in the past.†When you’re comparing health outcomes, you want the control group to be people in pretty good health, so this is a big flaw.

When study lead researcher, Tim Stockwell, Ph.D., and his team controlled for these flaws, the benefits of moderate drinking vanished.

In fact, many of the alcohol and health studies they revisited†actually†looked not at moderate drinkers but occasional drinkers. An occasional drinker has one drink or less per week. In the study press release, Stockwell explained, “Those people would be getting a biologically insignificant dose of alcohol,”†meaning that their positive outcomes were probably not related to their alcohol consumption at all.

The study looked at alcohol and health but not specific types of alcohol. Red wine, for example, gets a lot of cred for its health benefits. That was outside of this study’s scope. Stockwell says that if specific alcoholic drinks do have benefits, chances are the alcohol itself doesn’t deserve the credit.

“There’s a general idea out there that alcohol is good for us, because that’s what you hear reported all the time,” Stockwell said. “But there are many reasons to be skeptical.”

So, what’s the take-away here?†An occasional drink at the end of a long week most likely isn’t going to cause you harm, but†there’s no proven benefit to moderate drinking, despite what some previous research seems to suggest. When it comes to occasionalóor “low-volume”ódrinking, the study authors caution that, “some low-volume drinkers are underestimating their consumption and are thus misclassified as occasional drinkers.”

A new meta-analysis looked at 87 studies of alcohol and health and found some crucial flaws. What’s the truth about alcohol and your health?

Images via Thinkstock


Sonia M

Thanks for sharing

Christine J.
Christine J1 years ago

Unfortunately, this makes a lot of sense! It's very likely that if a person doesn't drink too much, they probably don't have that sort of temperament that will lead to over-indulging in any area of their life. So they end up healthy.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Crystal Godbout
Crystal Godbout1 years ago

I don't drink at all

Debbie Hartman
DEBORAH Hartman1 years ago

Interesting, but I like my wine too much.

Valerie A.
Valerie A1 years ago


Valentina R.
Valentina R1 years ago

Alcohol is for losers.

Renata B.
Renata B1 years ago

Thank you.

Tomoko Harris
Tomoko Harris1 years ago

I like my wine too much, not stopping!

Margaret M. F.
Marge F1 years ago

Interesting. Thank you for posting.