We’ve been told that drinking white wine is good for our lungs, and that a glass of red wine with dinner can improve our cardiovascular health. But while it’s tempting to always believe these wine-promoting headlines, you might want to look at the findings with a skeptical eye before pouring yet another glass, according to a new study. The results are published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
The researchers analyzed 87 studies that link moderate drinking to a range of health benefits, finding that the majority of them seem to fail to accurately define "abstainers," or the group of participants who are compared to the moderate drinkers. In 65 of the studies, former drinkers (many of whom were in poor health) were considered abstainers—making the moderate drinkers appear healthier in comparison. In 50 of the studies, occasional drinkers were included in the abstainers group. When the researchers accounted for the biases, the moderate drinkers showed no significant reduction in mortality risk. Only 13 of the studies were free from both the biases, and even these were found to have other methodological problems.
A second issue with the majority of the research? The people who lived the longest were occasional, not moderate, drinkers—meaning they consumed less than one drink per week. It's unlikely that drinking this small amount of alcohol would be the cause of their longevity, according to the researchers.
“Those people would be getting a biologically insignificant dose of alcohol," lead researcher Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research in British Columbia, Canada, said in a statement. "There’s a general idea out there that alcohol is good for us, because that’s what you hear reported all the time. But there are many reasons to be skeptical.”
Other studies have also cited the downsides to drinking, including the negative impact it has on your sleep. So—while we're waiting for more research—the next time you consider pouring yourself a drink, consider these smart tips for consuming alcohol wisely.