Study challenges health benefits of moderate drinking

The scientists tracked more than 500,000 people across China, following them for a decade

This Monday, July 10, 2017 file photo shows different shaped glasses of wine in Sonoma, Calif. According to a large genetic study released on Thursday, April 4, 2019, drinking alcohol raises the risk of high blood pressure and stroke, debunking previous claims that moderate drinking was protective. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

It might just be enough to kill your buzz: A new study challenges the idea that a drink or two a day could actually be good for you.

In a study conducted in China, the researchers found that moderate drinking slightly raised the risk of stroke and high blood pressure. They weren’t able to figure out, though, whether small amounts of alcohol might also increase the chances of a heart attack.

READ MORE: Alcohol policies fizzle for Canadian governments as harms overflow: reports

People who have a drink or two a day have long been thought to have a lower risk of stroke and heart problems than nondrinkers. But scientists were unsure if that was because the alcohol was beneficial or if the people who didn’t drink had other health issues.

“The claims that alcohol has some magical, protective fix … has no particularly serious scientific basis,” said Richard Peto, of the University of Oxford, one of the study’s senior authors.

Peto said their findings should apply to other populations beyond China and to any alcoholic drinks like beer or wine, even though the study participants mostly drank spirits. The research was published online Thursday in the journal, Lancet .

For their research, the Chinese and British scientists took genetics into account. They focused on two variants common among East Asians that can make drinking unpleasant. For those with the variants, drinking alcohol can result in quickly turning red, a fast heart rate, nausea or headaches.

Because such gene variations occur randomly, the researchers were able to design the equivalent of a randomized study. Much of the previous research on alcohol and health effects has relied on studies that can’t prove cause and effect.

The scientists tracked more than 500,000 people across China, following them for a decade. They recorded their medical history, including whether they smoked or exercised, and how much they drank. A third of the men reported drinking most weeks, compared with few of the women.

About 160,000 of the participants had the two gene variants. Among the men in that group, drinking ranged from none to up to four drinks a day. The researchers looked at how many had strokes or heart attacks, and compared them to participants without the variants and to the women with the variants.

Overall, the study found alcohol increases the stroke risk by about one-third for every four additional drinks per day. The researchers found no protective effects for moderate drinking. For people who drink up to two drinks a day — which would qualify as moderate drinking — scientists said they would have an increased stroke risk of about 10% to 15% when compared to nondrinkers. There weren’t enough heart attacks among the participants to be able to draw a conclusion about heart risks, the researchers said.

In a journal commentary, the authors called for stricter controls on alcohol, saying its risks have been underestimated.

“The alcohol industry is thriving and should be regulated in a similar way to the tobacco industry,” wrote Shiu Lun Au Yeung and Dr. Tai Hing Lam of the University of Hong Kong.

Maria Cheng, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Life-Altering experience

Six weeks that served to change their view of the world

Speculation tax forces sale of Oak Bay’s ‘Tulip House’

Bob and Jan Fleming selling their retirement home famous for its thousands of tulips

UPDATE: Father on trial for murder describes being ‘tackled’ and ‘stabbed’ in Oak Bay apartment

Oak Bay father takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

Province rejects criticism from Saanich councillor over McKenzie Interchange

Transportation ministry says project will ‘significantly lower’ greenhouse gas emissions

Community helps fund dreams through Moms and Mentors

West Shore society helps women face the challenges of motherhood

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Sooke’s Old-Fashioned Country Picnic set for Saturday

The free event combines music, kids activities, food and fun

Striking Western Forest Products workers could lose benefits in September

Union, forest company at odds over Vancouver Island benefit payments as strike enters third month

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Forests minister visits B.C. town rocked by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

B.C. music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

Most Read