Previous claims that one or two alcoholic drinks a day doesn’t do any harm and could actually be protective are now in significant jeopardy following the publication of a large genetic study in The Lancet.
According to the UK and Chinese researchers who followed 500,000 Chinese people over a 10-year period, the findings of the study are the best evidence yet on the direct effects of alcohol.
While the negative health implications of heavy drinking are understood, the impact of consuming small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis has remained unclear.
The researchers, from the University of Oxford, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, found that:
- drinking one to two alcoholic drinks every day increased stroke risk by 10-15%
- drinking four alcoholic drinks every day increased stroke risk by 35%
For the purposes of the study, one drink was defined as either:
- a small glass of wine
- a bottle of beer
- a single measure of spirits
In other words, even light-to-moderate drinking can increase blood pressure and a person’s chances of having a stroke.
Prof David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, said drinking alcohol on a daily basis gives the “opposite effect of taking a statin” (drugs that are used to lower cholesterol levels).
The bottom line, according to Prof Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, is the “claims that wine and beer have magical protective effects is not borne out”.