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If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t think twice about enjoying a big glass (or two) of wine with your dinner every night or settling into your favorite armchair with a Scotch every evening. After all, studies have shown that an occasional cocktail is actually good for you, right?
Unfortunately, a raft of new research appears to burst that big champagne bubble. Not only do these headline-making studies put a big question mark next to the idea that drinking wine helps your heart, they also take aim at moderate drinking in particular, showing that drinking too much for your health might be drinking what seems to you like not that much at all.
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One of the big pieces of research that’s driving home this point was published last month in the Lancet. It was notable because it combined almost 600 studies on how much people drank across the globe and what the effects were on their health. The big takeaway from it was that worldwide, drinking — and not only heavy drinking— was linked to deaths from not only car accidents and liver disease but also cancer, tuberculosis and heart disease.
Some researchers suggested that you can’t compare the results of drinking across countries where the top risks of death vary widely (in some places, TB; in the U.S., heart disease.) Still, the study, and others like it, cast doubt on the idea of the protective health benefits of a glass of red wine, something that’s been held as true since the 1980s, when researchers began exploring the “French paradox” to try to figure out why the country had such low rates of heart disease despite a diet high in saturated fat. They quickly decided it was thanks to drinking copious amounts of red wine, which contains heart-healthy antioxidants such as resveratrol, procyanidins and quercetin. Studies began to show drinking vino correlated with lower rates of death from heart disease; in an even happier twist, research showed other types of alcohol, like beer and liquor, bestowed cardiovascular benefits.