Does drinking really improve health?

Researchers poured cold water on the idea that moderate drinking helps prevent heart disease, noting that many studies include teetotalers as a control group but don’t ask why they did not drink.

Several major studies have found that light to moderate drinking — up to two drinks a day on a regular basis — is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Some have also found a lower risk of some cancers.

But a team at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and the University of California San Francisco analyzed 54 studies and found that only seven of them differentiated between people who abstain from choice and those who may have quit drinking for health reasons.

When such studies show a higher death rate for abstainers than for moderate drinkers, it may be because of the poor health of some abstainers who recently quit drinking and not because alcohol is good for health, they said.

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