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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020

It was all lies - moderate drinking is not good for you *

* Unless you’re a man aged 50-64 or a woman aged 65 or over.

There may be benefits for Queen Elizabeth in that glass of bubbles - because of her age.
There may be benefits for Queen Elizabeth in that glass of bubbles - because of her age.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

ANY HEALTH BENEFITS from alcohol may be limited to women aged 65 and over and men aged between 50 and 64, and even then the benefits may have been exaggerated by existing studies.

That’s according to research published in the British Medical Journal which says the protective effects of moderate drinking have been over-estimated.

Some studies have suggested that, compared with non-drinkers, moderate consumption may protect against cardiovascular disease and bring mortality benefits.

But new research says this association is contentious and the protective effects of light drinking may be exaggerated by “selection biases”.

It gives examples of former (potentially heavy) drinkers being included in non-drinking groups in past studies.

Lack of evidence 

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has recommended that alcohol consumption should be reduced to a maximum of 11 units per week or 1.5 units a day for people aged 65 years or over- but researchers today say data to support this advice is lacking.

The association between alcohol consumption and mortality was explored by taking samples of 18,368 and 34,523 adults – analysed by sex and age. It found:

Compared with never drinkers, protective associations were largely limited to men aged 50-64 years who reported consuming 15-20 units on average per week or 0.1-1.5 units on the heaviest day, and to women aged 65 and over who reported consuming 10 units or less on average per week and at all levels of heaviest day use.

The authors say that little to no protection was found in other age-sex groups – regardless of consumption level.

The authors also stress that protective associations “may be explained by selection biases”.

Globally, more than three million deaths are attributed to alcohol each year with high alcohol consumption associated with more than 200 acute and chronic conditions.

Professor Mike Daube from Curtin University in Australia said new evidence or health claims “should be treated with great caution” and health professionals should discourage alcohol intake, even at low levels, for health benefits.

The alcohol industry should remove misleading references to health benefits from their information materials.

He added that health advice should come only from health authorities.

First published 11.55pm

Read: Over 540 people have been stopped for drink-driving so far this year>

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