Drinkers who enjoy two or three glasses of wine a day are healthier than teetotallers, according to a new European study.

Moderate drinkers had lower rates of heart disease, obesity and depression than those who abstained from alcohol entirely, researchers found.

But, while previous studies have highlighted the health-giving properties of wine, the authors of the latest report sounded a note of caution. Drinking modest amounts of alcohol does not necessarily make you healthier, they said. Rather, those who enjoy alcohol without indulging to excess tend to be wealthier and more successful than average, and are the sort of people who look after their health in general.

Boris Hansel of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, who led the study of the medical records of 150,000 Parisians, said: “Moderate alcohol intake is a powerful marker of a higher social level, superior general health status and lower cardiovascular risk.”

In the study, light drinkers were defined as those who drank one unit of alcohol a day — the equivalent of one small glass of wine. Moderate drinkers consumed between one and three units a day — up to half a bottle of weak wine or a pint-and-a-half of standard strength beer.

Light and moderate drinkers scored better than both teetotallers and heavy drinkers on a range of health indicators.

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