New research shows that even moderate drinking isn’t good for your health

WATCHING: The health benefits of alcohol have been questioned in a new study

Drinking a glass of wine a day won’t help you live longer, according to a new analysis of alcohol research that debunks long-held belief about the possible health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.

The analysis, published recently in JAMA Network Open, looked at more than 100 studies with almost 5 million participants.

Not only did it find no significant health benefit from moderate alcohol consumption, but also that drinking a daily serving of alcohol of less than 1 ounce for women and about 1.5 ounces for men increased the risk of death.

“When you’re talking about risk versus benefit, it’s one thing to say there’s no benefit,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and chief medical correspondent for ABC News, who was not involved in the research. “It’s another thing, at certain levels, to find risk, and that’s what this new study found.”

For women, moderate alcohol intake per week is defined as seven servings of alcohol or less. For men, it’s 14 servings of alcohol or less per week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heavy drinking is generally defined as consuming eight drinks or more per week, according to the CDC.

A serving of alcohol is defined as 5 ounces for wine and only 1 1/2 ounces for hard liquor, much less than what is typically served in bars, restaurants and people’s homes.


The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shares this graphic about how much alcohol is in one drink.

The new analysis found that people who drank more than 2 ounces of alcohol a day had the highest risk of death, about 35 percent higher than people who drank more moderately.

The risk of death was also found to be greater in women, with a 61% increased risk in women who drank more than 2 ounces of alcohol per day.

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Previous research has already shown that just as women metabolize alcohol differently than men, they also face more serious health consequences.

Women are more susceptible to alcohol-related heart disease than men; alcohol abuse leads to brain damage more quickly in women than in men; women may be more susceptible than men to alcohol-related blackouts or memory lapses; and women who regularly abuse alcohol are more likely than men who drink the same amount to develop alcoholic hepatitis, a potentially deadly condition, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Data show that even occasional drinkers face a greater risk of cancer, most commonly liver and throat cancer, but also colon, head and neck cancer, in addition to breast cancer.

Drinking alcohol is listed by the Department of Health and Human Services as a known human carcinogen.

STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

friends toast in a bar.

In 2020, the American Cancer Society updated its guidelines to say that completely eliminating alcohol from a person’s diet is best for reducing and preventing cancer.

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Ashton said it’s important for people to talk to their healthcare providers about alcohol consumption to make the most informed decisions.

“Alcohol is a known carcinogen. We know it’s associated with an increased risk of cancer,” Ashton said. “But it’s also part of our social thread and our culture, so it’s not an easy decision.”

Ashton also noted that the data is “crystal clear” that complete abstinence from alcohol is best for a person’s overall health.

For questions and concerns about alcohol use, SAMHSA, the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, has a 24-hour toll-free and confidential help line at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and online at national helpline.

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