No Decisive Proof of Alcohol’s Health Benefits

A glass of red wine a day may not keep the doctor away, according to a study by Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.


Researchers have found a widely held belief linking low amounts of alcohol consumption with heart disease prevention is still inconclusive.


Even worse, enjoying your favourite beverage may be detrimental to fighting other diseases, including several cancers, says the review, which looked at 44 international studies dating back over the last 20 years.


“Basically, the take-away point is: if you want to do something good for your health, stop smoking, take a little walk, go to the gym,” the study’s lead author Dr. Juergen Rehm said Mon-day. “Alcohol is not the best way.”


Rehm, the centre’s director of social and epidemiological research, decided to launch the review to see if there was any truth behind the theory whether seemingly low rates of heart disease in France can be explained by the country’s love for wine.


His finding: It can’t.


In the analysis, researchers examined 38,627 incidents related to heart disease (including deaths) involving 957,684 people in Canada, the U.S., Asia, and South America. What they found was a “huge variability” in the results. “Our conclusion is not that there’s no protective effect of alcohol on the heart, but that the amount of this effect is still shaky.”


Some of the research also shows that having one drink a day may be beneficial, but anything more than that cancels the positive effects.


“If someone binge drinks even once a month, any health benefits from light to moderate drinking disappear.”


Having excessive amounts of alcohol also increased heart disease-related incidents and the likelihood of a variety of cancers including mouth, pharynx and liver.

The study was published online this month in the Journal of Addiction.

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