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

It’s here: tackling opioid addiction in Ladysmith

Nine overdose deaths in two years “pretty alarming considering this is a small town”

Vancouver Island man celebrates 50th year by running 50 km race — monthly

Ultrarunner hopes Deep 50 Challenge will raise $5,000 for Help Fill A Dream

Alternative paths to health: How one Vancouver Island woman is taking control of her cancer treatments

Many Canadians try at least one form of complementary treatment during their cancer journey

Editorial: Plenty of alternatives to plastic straws

Plastics have their place in our society, but right now there are far too many of them

Parliament Hill 4-20 organizers predict record crowd after legalization

A celebration? Yes, but organizers say concerns remain about the government’s decisions on legalization rollout

VIDEO: Vancouver Island fish farmers launch $30-million vessel to treat farmed salmon for sea lice

Freshwater treatment an improvement but fish farms should be removed from sea, says conservationist

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Parents say Austrian climber missing in Banff National Park ‘lived his dream’

David Lama, Hansjorg Auer and American climber Jess Roskelley have been missing since Wednesday

Six months after legalization, high prices and supply issues boost illicit pot market

It has been six months since Canada became the first industrialized country to legalize recreational cannabis

Cougars spotted in Sproat Lake neighbourhoods

ACRD director warns residents to keep children, pets close

Seattle’s 4-20 ‘protestival’ enjoys tolerance, some support – and B.C. could do the same

Seattle’s Hempfest a large-scale occasions with vendors, prominent musical acts and thousands of attendees

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, multiple people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

Most Read