A glass of wine or pint of beer each night raises the risk of a stroke, says major study
When it comes to alcohol consumption, there have always been conflicting on arguments on how much constitutes a "healthy" amount.
For a while now, it has been believed that a small amount of alcohol - a glass of wine or a pint of beer - every night can be beneficial to a person. After a recent study from Oxford University, however, it has transpired that the opposite could be true, and that frequent drinking, even in small amounts, can actually raise the risk of a stroke.
By following the drinking habits and health of 500,000 people from China, researchers discovered that those who consumed one or two drinks a day were at a 10 to 15 percent higher risk of suffering a stroke in the next decade, while those who indulged in up to four drinks a day saw that same risk increased by a whopping 35 percent.
The sample group was specifically selected because around a third of Chinese people have a gene which makes them intolerant to alcohol. This was useful to researchers, as those with the intolerance could be taken as a baseline for people who did not drink, making them a reliable control for the experiment.
The health of those individuals was then compared to regular drinkers, and the differences were astounding.
"We have got the truth about a story that has been a myth for ages," said study leader, Professor Zhengming Chen. "It has been claimed that moderate drinking is potentially beneficial, especially for cardiovascular disease. This study shows really robust evidence that refutes this claim. The key message is this protective effect is not real."
He went on to say: "Even moderate alcohol consumption increases the chances of having a stroke. The findings for heart attack were less clear-cut, so we plan to collect more evidence."
These findings were especially interesting to academics who had previously believed that consistent, minimal alcohol consumption could be beneficial.
"I have always been reasonably convinced that moderate alcohol consumption was protective for cardiovascular disease, but now I am having my doubts," said David Spiegelhalter, a professor at the University of Cambridge.
"This is a very impressive study which shows that men who, by chance, have a combination of genes that put them off drinking alcohol, have a lower risk of stroke compared with those without these genes.
"The fact that this is not true for Chinese women, who tend not to drink whatever their genes, suggests this effect is due to the alcohol rather than the genes themselves. The increase in total stroke risk was around 38 per cent for every 40g of alcohol drunk per day; that's five UK units, or over a half-bottle of wine."
Of course, while alcohol is something you should never consume in excess, it is still believed to be a low health risk if you drink it in moderation. This means drinking on an infrequent basis, and, when you do drink, only consuming a minimal number of units.
Further research on the subject is ongoing.