A new study has confirmed what multiple earlier studies have already highlighted, that the risk of cancer and death from cardiovascular causes and cancer is lower among light drinkers than abstainers.
Alcohol consumption appears to have a complex and somewhat controversial relationship to health, with many studies saying it’s fine to drink, but public health messages saying to stay away from alcohol.
“While everyone is in agreement that heavy drinking or binge drinking is risky behaviour for anyone’s health and well-being, studies like this emphasise that the light-to-moderate drinking behaviour favoured by most can have a positive health impact,” says New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council Executive Director Nick Leggett.
“While current research is largely consistent as to the harms of heavy drinking in terms of both cancer incidence and mortality, there are disparate messages regarding the safety of light-moderate alcohol consumption, which may confuse public health messages,” the researchers of the PLoS Medicine study reveal.
Leggett says that the 2018 PLoS Medicine Study of 100,000 people over 20 years is significant because it tracks lifetime alcohol consumption where mortality and cancer incidences were assessed separately. The study concludes that intakes below one drink per day were associated with the lowest risk of death.
“We would never say that light-to-moderate drinking protects people from cancer or early death. However, there is now a stack of research that shows people who combine light-to-moderate drinking with a healthy lifestyle should have nothing to fear from enjoying a beer or wine,” Leggett tells Scoop.
Word of caution
Leggett went on to say that scare tactics employed by the anti-alcohol lobby, which seeks to confuse and scare people, are blown away time and again by high quality, independent research. “The ‘no safe level’ of alcohol statements by some should be weighed up against quality research that continues to show that light-to-moderate consumption doesn’t have a negative impact on life expectancy or cancer or heart disease risks.”