A new study on perceived benefits of moderate alcohol intake seems to question the earlier studies that had indicated longevity benefits and cardiovascular health amongst moderate drinkers, as compared to abstainers or heavy drinkers.
The study conveys that, there has been some mistake in the perception of who "abstainers" are, when these studies were conducted. According to Kaye Middleton Fillmore, PhD, emerita professor at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing, "Abstainers" were also those who had given up the habit, due to health problems or illness.
Fillmore said, "Once you get to late middle age or become elderly, more and more people drink lightly or abstain altogether. The decrease in alcohol consumption in these age groups is associated with illness and frailty and use of medications that might interact with alcohol. By not removing these people from the abstainer group, abstainers appeared to be less healthy because of absence of alcohol. In truth, they were ill and showing all signs of death, premature or not"
Fillmore steered an international research team to a new and different outlook on alcohol consumption and death due to alcohol abuse and heart disease. When studies were conducted distinguishing the long-term abstainers from previous drinkers, there was no apparent decline in the risk for moderate drinkers. Looking at it from the other angle of including only long-term nondrinkers in the abstainer category, there was no perceived health benefits with moderate drinking.
Fillmore, fills in, that the earlier study is an over estimation of the benefits of moderate drinking. According to her, "It has got to the point where some doctors recommend that people have a drink every day. But you run risks with drinking, particularly if you are elderly. People who choose to drink one or two drinks a day should take these risks into consideration."
Christie Ballantyne, MD, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Prevention at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine, who was not part of the Fillmore study said, "I do not recommend people drinking alcohol to reduce their risk of heart disease. We don't know for sure that a little alcohol is good. There are lots of risks with alcohol, and the benefits are not really clear. Yes, a little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but we also know that too much is dangerous.You can get liver disease, bad blood pressure, high levels of blood fats and that doesn't count car accidents and other drinking problems."