A Drink a Day May Not Be Good for Everyone

Alcohol in moderation may only protect health in certain age groups

(RxWiki News) Claims about the health benefits of red wine and moderate drinking may be too good to be true.

A new study found that drinking alcohol may have mild health benefits — but only for middle-aged men and older women. For other age groups, alcohol did not appear to offer protective health benefits.

“High alcohol consumption has been negatively associated with more than 200 acute and chronic conditions,” as well as high health care costs, wrote the authors of this study, led by Craig S. Knott, BSc, of University College London.

Past research has found that people who drink moderately may have better heart and overall health outcomes than nondrinkers. However, heavy drinking has also been tied to heart disease and other serious health conditions.

For this study, Knott and team looked at data from two groups of adults. The first group included more than 18,000 people, and the second group included more than 34,000. The patients reported how many alcoholic drinks they typically consumed each week.

These researchers also kept track of the patients who died during the study period, which lasted almost 10 years.

They found that drinking only provided modest health benefits for men who were 50 to 64 years old and women who were older than 65.

Also, alcohol only led to health benefits in older women who drank 10 or fewer drinks per week.

Knott and colleagues concluded that past studies may not have accounted for other factors that can affect health. For instance, people who were heavy drinkers but quit drinking might have been categorized as nondrinkers in past research.

“Heart foundations now emphasize that nobody should be encouraged to drink for the sake of their health,” wrote Mike Daube, Hon DSci, of Curtin University in Perth, Australia, in an editorial about this study.

Dr. Daube advised that “if something looks too good to be true, it should be treated with great caution.”

The study and editorial were published Feb. 10 in The BMJ.

The UK Department of Health funded this research. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 6, 2015