You have probably seen newspaper headlines proclaiming that wine prevents heart attacks, or that a couple of alcoholic drinks each day will prolong your life. Studies proclaiming the health benefits of alcohol are widely promoted by the wine, beer and alcoholic beverage industries, but they have a major flaw. Researchers from the University of Victoria in British Columbia reviewed 54 studies and found that only seven corrected their non-drinking population for people who had to stop drinking for health reasons ( Addiction Research and Theory , April 2006).
When you do an epidemiological study to see if alcohol prevents disease, you compare people who drink and those who do not drink. However, many people do not drink because their doctors have told them they have high blood pressure, liver, heart or kidney disease, alcoholism, stomach ulcers, or other major health problems. The Canadian researchers re-analyzed 47 studies that associated wine or other alcohol with a longer life and decreased risk for heart attacks. When the studies were corrected to remove the people who had been ordered to stop drinking for health reasons, they found no difference in death rate between average drinkers and those who do not drink at all. It is probably safe to take up to two drinks a day, but be skeptical of studies that say alcohol will prolong your life.