Researchers say alcohol offers no net health benefits

Researchers from Canada's University of Victoria, who carefully studied data from 87 long-term studies, said they found no supporting evidence for the claimed health benefits of moderate drinking. A number of earlier studies had suggested that moderate drinking reduced the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

According to Tim Stockwell of the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research, previous research had over-estimated the health benefits of alcohol.

The studies, which involved nearly 4 million people had failed to properly define those who abstained from drinking, many of whom might have been heavy drinkers before they stopped drinking altogether.

At first instance, the data analysis showed that low-volume drinkers (those who had up to two drinks a day) had lower mortality risks than non-drinkers.

However, among those who abstained were many whose poor health had led them to cut down or completely abstain. They made the health and life expectancy of moderate drinkers look good by comparison.

When adjustments were made for errors such as how abstainers were defined, they found that the protective effect of light drinking disappeared.

''The bottom line is that we need to be more skeptical of claims that low-volume alcohol consumption is good for you, and take a long, hard look at how studies around alcohol and health are designed,'' said Stockwell.

"We should drink alcohol for pleasure," Stockwell said in an interview. "But if you think it's for your health, you're deluding yourself."

Jurgen Rehm of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto knew how difficult it was to study abstinence, CBC News reported. He had observed a disconnect among survey respondents who reported to have never drunk drunk alcohol but who previously said they were prior or current drinkers.