(Montreal) Low or moderate alcohol consumption does not reduce the risk of mortality, concludes a gigantic analysis partially funded by Health Canada.

Two drinks a day, the equivalent of 25 grams of alcohol, could even increase women’s risk of death.

These results are part of a long line of studies – some of which are very recent – which have looked at the association between alcohol and health, and which have sometimes produced contradictory results.

“I think the message here that’s important is that they’re saying low or moderate consumption is not protective in terms of mortality,” said Janice Bailey, scientific director of the Research Fund of the Quebec. So here they are not necessarily talking about diseases. They talk about mortality. If we did the same thing with diseases, it would be a completely different story. »

Two researchers from the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and their colleague from the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom reviewed 107 studies comprising almost five millions of people.

In particular, they focused on determining whether the studies they reviewed included former drinkers in their “non-drinkers”, since other research has shown that the mortality risk of former drinkers is significantly higher than that of non-drinkers. having never drunk.

The researchers also studied the differences between men and women, and analyzed factors that could have an impact on mortality, such as socioeconomic status.

“A lot of people don’t drink because it’s too expensive,” Bailey said. So there may be other factors in their lives that contribute to poorer health. »

Likewise, she continues, people who are able to have a glass of wine or two with the evening meal may be enjoying a more beneficial socio-economic situation for their health.

The authors of the new meta-analysis found no reduction in mortality risk among occasional or light drinkers, compared with those who never drank. On the other hand, they measured a higher risk of death among those who consumed between 45 and 64 grams, or more than 65 grams, of alcohol per day.

The mortality risk was significantly higher among female drinkers than among women who had never touched alcohol.

The level of consumption at which mortality risk began to rise was also lower in women than in men. This risk began to increase from 25 grams of alcohol per day for women, but from 45 to 64 grams per day for men.

“The rationale for the study was whether alcohol consumption was protective of health, and they say no,” Ms. Bailey summed up.

But at the end of the day, it’s not at all easy to unravel the picture to pinpoint the exact impact of alcohol on health, which may explain why different studies come to different conclusions.

“There are millions of reasons to quit drinking, but someone who quits drinking may be someone who drank too much before and it may have harmed their health.” example Mrs. Bailey.

If researchers include former drinkers among nondrinkers, and find somewhat higher mortality or morbidity among nondrinkers, they may feel that not drinking at all is more dangerous to health than drinking a little, she explained.

The findings of this study were recently published by the scientific journal Substance Use and Addiction.