Rest assured that you can enjoy a drink or two with your friends!

Once again, the same group of scientists come together in an attempt to demonize alcoholic beverages.  In a paper published last week, Tim Stockwell tries again to claim that there are no health benefits to moderate alcohol consumption.  He claims that many, if not all, studies published to-date have compared moderate drinkers with abstainers who in fact were “sick quitters”.  I say almost all because from the 87 selected studies, Stockwell finally reaches a conclusionbased on 6 studies only ….


We are glad to see that soon after this publication, a number of renowned scientists from across the world have commented on why this new publication is flawed.  These comments deserve the attention of the media to ensure fair and balanced consumer information.  


Several meta-analysis assessing the all-cause mortality risk for drinkers and abstainers have taken the issue of “sick-quitters” into account and they still confirm the existence of a J-curve: Fuchs et al 1995, Doll et al 2005, Sun et al 2011, Ronksley et al 2013.  Di Castelnuevo in 2006 reported that “a subgroup analysis restricted to studies that excluded either ex-drinkers or very light drinkers from the reference group generated a pooled curve that indeed predicted a lower (though statistically significant) protection, confirming the importance of properly selecting the reference group in studies on alcohol and health”. 


In fact, aclose examination of the data in the Stockwell’s paper show evidence of benefit for all-cause mortality at daily consumption levels up to 25 grams (about two drinks).  At this level, there is no evidence of increased risk, and the reduction in risk for all-cause mortality is statistically significant.  


Controlling for “sick quitters” has become the norm and not just for meta-analyses.  The results of a cohort study based on 10-EU countries and people aged 25 to 70 years old were published in 2013 by Manuela Bergmann and Jürgen Rehm as second author.  This study finds that all-cause mortality risk for “light to moderate drinkers” is 23% lower for both men and women compared to abstainers (see table 5 in the publication). 


Allow me to conclude quoting someone who is unknown to us, i.e., Dr. Aaron E. Carroll (Medical Doctor and Associate Professor atthe Indiana University School of Medicine) who said in the New York Times: “The evidence still says that a moderate amount of alcohol appears to be safe, and that it might even be healthy for many people.  There’s nothing in the new analysis that would make me change my mind”.