A Monash Uni study says yes. So should Christmas celebrations start early?
The cheery news came from the results of a survey of around 18,000 people (median age 74) in America and Australia. It showed an association between having five to 10 standard drinks a week and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and dying from any cause.
Five to 10 standard drinks a week reflect the current guidelines for safe drinking.
We’ve heard in the past that a few drinks are good for our health, then it was shown to be wrong, so is it right this time?
It’s important to note that only healthy people completed this survey — anyone who’d had a heart attack or stroke was excluded. Those healthy folk were followed for almost five years.
A standard problem with surveys is that they rely on people’s memories and their honesty, so they’re always questionable. But the obvious flaw in this study is the same one as in those previous studies on alcohol.
Associate Professor Andy Towers from New Zealand’s Massey University is also an alcohol researcher. He points out that what moderate drinking and good health have in common is a middle-class lifestyle.
Middle-class people have better education, better jobs, better incomes and better health. Which is what this study shows. Not that a few drinks a week will make us healthier.
How it got published with such a dated approach is anyone’s guess.
Andy Towers also notes that the Monash work failed to mention several recent studies linking even a modest intake of alcohol with cancer of the mouth, throat, breast, gut and liver.
The Heart Foundation has also discounted the idea that there’s an upside to drinking for cardiovascular health. We know it can increase blood pressure and inflammation in the body generally, as well as increasing the risk of atrial fibrillation (where the heart’s rhythm becomes irregular).
So I’m afraid nothing has changed: the alcohol guidelines are based on current evidence as to where to draw the line, so stick to them. Any link between drinking and better health is, sigh, wishful thinking.
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