Thursday, 25 April, 2019

Study links even one drink a day with higher stroke risk

Low booze consumption does not protect people from strokes, study finds Alcohol doesn't protect against strokes, scientists say - and even increases risk by 15%
Celia Hoffman | 07 April, 2019, 10:26

Drinking one or two glass a day may increase the chances of having a stroke, according to a new genetic study published Thursday.

For years, people have thought having a couple of drinks a day may lower their risk of stroke but it turns out the opposite may be true, a new study says. "Our genetic analyses have helped us understand the cause-and-effect relationships".

But the findings about the biological effects of alcohol should be the same for all people worldwide, they said.

The research team - including scientists from Oxford and Peking universities and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said it would be impossible to do a study of this kind in Western populations, since nearly no-one there has the relevant alcohol-intolerance gene variants.

The researchers say their key message is that there is now clear evidence of no protective effect of moderate drinking on stroke.

Among men, these genetic variants caused a 50-fold difference in average alcohol intake, from near zero to about four units (drinks) per day. "I have always been reasonably convinced that moderate alcohol consumption was protective for cardiovascular disease, but now I am having my doubts", he said.

After using genetic data from a smaller group of participants and taking into account where they lived to predict the amount of alcohol menwere consuming, researchers found no protective effect from moderate drinking.

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In order to arrive at the conclusion, the researchers examined 500,000 Chinese people for a period of over 10 years. "The findings for heart attack were less clear-cut, so we plan to collect more evidence", said Zhengming Chen, a researcher at the University of Oxford and co-author.

"It strongly suggests that there is no cardiovascular benefit of light drinking and that risk of stroke increases even with moderate light alcohol consumption", he said.

The authors claimed that it would be impossible to do such a study in Western populations because very few people would have the relevant genetic variants.

For the objective of the study, one drink drink was defined either as a small glass of wine, a single measure of spirits or a bottle of beer. As a result, the team were able to look at the impact of drinking on the risk of stroke without numerous other issues that can muddy the waters. This study estimates that, among Chinese men, alcohol is a cause of 8% of all strokes from a blood clot in the brain and 16% of all strokes from bleeding into the brain. For those with the variants, drinking alcohol can result in quickly turning red, a fast heart rate, nausea or headaches.

"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.

Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Tai-Hing Lam and Dr Au Yeung, from the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China, call for a WHO Framework Convention for Alcohol Control (FCAC), similar to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC): "Alcohol control is complex and stronger policies are required".

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