People who drink moderately less than 25g of alcohol or less than two drinks per day don’t have a lower risk of death compared to those who don’t drink at all, according to a study by researchers at Victoria University.
The scientists reviewed 107 studies involving over 4.8m people and found that moderate drinkers were no more likely to die than those who didn’t drink at all.
According to Tim Stockwell, one of the co-authors of the study and a researcher at Victoria University, the health benefits of small amounts of alcohol have become less and less clear.
“We just need to be very skeptical of scientific evidence or scientific studies suggesting there are health benefits,” Stockwell added.
The new analysis did, however, show an increased risk of mortality among individuals who consumed 45 grams or more of alcohol per day (roughly three or more drinks). The results also showed that the risk of drinking depends on a person’s gender.
Women who consumed two or more alcoholic beverages per day had an increased mortality risk relative to those who had never consumed alcoholic beverages, while men who consumed three or more alcoholic beverages had an increased risk relative to male lifetime non-drinkers.
“The most likely, obvious explanation is that women’s bodies’ process alcohol differently. Their livers are smaller, on average.
“Another factor, though, is that men, on average, drink more than women and because they have more tolerance to it and are metabolising it more efficiently, that can also give the appearance of relatively less harm per unit of alcohol,” Stockwell said.
One of the reasons for the difference between the new study and the previous one is that Stockwell’s team didn’t include people who had stopped drinking. Since its common for people to stop drinking because of health issues or certain medications, including these people in the study could affect the results and create the perception that abstaining from drinking makes people less healthy.
“They make the people who continue to drink look healthy by comparison,” Stockwell noted.
The World Health Organisation declared last year that no amount of alcohol is safe for one’s health. However, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that, if people choose to drink, men consume two drinks or less per day and women have one daily drink or less. The CDC defines a drink as a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of a distilled spirit like gin or vodka.