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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Port Hardy Mounties help First Nation chief build smokehouse

‘We have great maya’xala for all the community members, in each of the communities…’

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Access to remote Side Bay beach up in the bureaucratic air

Roads to the pristine north west coast Vancouver Island beach at risk of being deactivated

Mount Cain planning a modified winter season for north Island ski and snowboarders

Skiing is a COVID-friendly activity, but shared public spaces require adjustment

Remote B.C. tourism lodge staffed for coastal clean up instead of wilderness tours

The Great Bear Rainforest is home to exotic wildlife — and international trash

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Most Read