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Review Questions Influence of Alcohol Consumption on Life Span

Researchers say previous findings don’t account for those who abstain from alcohol because of illness

TUESDAY, March 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Moderate alcohol consumption may not provide a survival benefit compared to abstaining, according to a new review published in the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Tanya Chikritzhs, Ph.D., professor and director of the Alcohol Policy Research team at Australia’s National Drug Research Institute in Perth, and colleagues contend that previous reviews missed an important limitation: People who abstain from drinking often do so because they’re ill. As a result, the researchers said, abstainers are more likely to die earlier, a fact that can throw off findings about the influence of alcohol consumption on life span.

The team examined 87 studies and removed those that didn’t take into account the fact that abstainers may avoid drinking due to illness. After the study authors “corrected” this issue, Chikritzhs told HealthDay, they found no sign of a life span benefit from moderate drinking.

In addition, Chikritzhs said, “among people who drink, it was actually the ‘occasional’ drinkers — those who drank less than a drink every 10 days or so — who did the best.” But, she added, this finding appears to be a statistical fluke because that isn’t enough alcohol to influence health. In addition, she said, “it is becoming clearer that it is much more likely to be the case that being a low or moderate drinker in middle age or older is a marker of good health, not a cause of it.”

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