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Moderate Drinking May Not Be Healthy At All, New Study Suggests

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Drinking alcohol moderately may not be as healthy as people or some researchers think. A new study finds that it actually increases the risk of stroke and high blood pressure.

Previous researches claim that consuming one to two alcoholic drinks may prevent stroke development. The new study refutes this statement in a large collaborative investigation.

In the new study of East Asian genes, researchers from Oxford University, Peking University, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences discovered that alcohol itself, regardless of amount, can directly spike up blood pressure, and subsequently cause stroke.

A Look At Genetics And Alcohol Effects

East Asians have common genetic variants that are known to lower alcohol tolerability due to the unpleasant flushing reaction that occurs after drinking. Such can be used for the study of alcohol effects because this is not connected to other lifestyle choices such as smoking.

Dr. Iona Millwood, lead author from the Medical Research Council Population Health Research Unit at the University of Oxford, UK says using genetics is an innovative strategy to evaluate the health impacts of alcohol and to see whether moderate drinking is indeed helpful, or slightly harmful. She adds that their genetic investigations have paved the way for them to understand cause and effect relationships.

Large Study, Strong Study

The research involved 512,715 participants, who were studied and followed up after 10 years. At the start of the study, 33 percent of men and 2 percent of women reported drinking some alcohol, primarily spirits, on most weeks.

After 10 years, there were 10,000 cases of stroke and 2,000 cases of heart attack among the participants.

In more than 160,000 adult participants, the authors found two genetic variants that significantly lower alcohol consumption. For men, these variants caused a 50-fold difference in average alcohol drinking, from about zero to four drinks per day. These genetic factors also decreased the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. With this, the researchers concluded that alcohol amps up the risk of stroke by about 35 percent for every four additional drinks per day, without any protective mechanism noted.

Zhengming Chen, coauthor and professor from the University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Population Health says moderate drinking does not protect people from stroke. Such drinking habit can still increase the chance of stroke occurrence.

Western Population Application

Western people do not have the same genetic variant found in the East Asians involved in the study, but the researchers think their work is applicable worldwide.

"This large collaborative study has shown that stroke rates are increased by alcohol," says Liming Li, coauthor and professor from Peking University. "This should help inform personal choices and public health strategies."

The study was published in The Lancet.

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