Are the health benefits of moderate drinking overstated?

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Experts suggest the benefits associated with drinking alcohol are smaller than previously thought.

A number of recent studies have highlighted the benefits of light to moderate alcohol consumption and the risks associated with alcohol abstention. However, experts are now warning that these benefits may be overstated.

A new study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs , analysed data on 9,137 adults from the UK’s National Child Development Study, looking at patterns of alcohol and cigarette use from young adulthood to midlife.

It found health benefits of stable low-dose alcohol use (versus. abstention) were weakened by the fact that by age 55 almost all alcohol “abstainers” in its sample were former drinkers, and that respondents who followed infrequent drinking/abstention paths were the most likely to report poor health, psychological distress, and low educational qualifications in early adulthood.

“Alcohol abstainers are a diverse group. They include former heavy drinkers who quit due to problems with alcohol, as well as those who quit drinking due to poor health, and not just lifetime abstainers,” said co-author Jeremy Staff.

“Medical professionals and public health officials should be wary of drawing conclusions about the so-called ‘dangers’ of never drinking without more robust evidence,” Staff concluded.

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