While the harmful effects of excessive alcohol use are well known, research since the 1980’s has shown a link between people who drink in moderation and improved heart health. Now a new study from MIT and Harvard show it’s not the alcohol, but rather a healthy lifestyle that explained this link.

Researchers analyzed data of alcohol use and heart disease from nearly 400,000 people in the U.K.. On the surface, people who had one to two drinks a day had lower rates of heart disease compared to people who did not drink.

Then they examined lifestyle factors and found that those with one to two drinks a day also had lower rates of smoking, lower rates of obesity, higher physical activity and high vegetable intake.

When they reanalyzed the data after controlling for these lifestyle factors, they found even mild to moderate alcohol use was linked with worse heart health. For those who had 3 or more drinks a day, these adverse effects were even more pronounced.

Alcohol even in small amounts should not be treated as an elixir of health. Instead, focus on a healthy diet and daily exercise so that drink in moderation won’t do too much harm.