The truth about alcohol: a glass of wine a day will not protect against a stroke

According to a major study in The Lancet magazine, drinking any amount of alcohol is associated with an increase in blood pressure and the risk of stroke.

This contradicts previous studies, which claimed that one glass of wine per day protects against stroke and is generally “beneficial for the cardiovascular system”.

The last myth was so liked and settled down among the people that it turned into a saying (with a touch of self-justification).

The latest news saddened connoisseurs of a noble drink, but did not come as a surprise to many health workers.

In recent years, fears have repeatedly been expressed that a safe dose of alcohol simply does not exist, and even a glass of wine per day can undermine health.

Alcohol in any amount predisposes to stroke

Researchers from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences have observed over 500,000 people over 10 years. Scientists tracked the incidence of cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attack..

The results of the observation show that men who consumed 4 drinks a day had an average risk of stroke at 38 percent higher. The risk of stroke increased steadily from a low level of alcohol consumption to 4 drinks a day, inclusive - the authors studied this range of consumption.

Blood pressure also tended to increase with alcohol..

Very few women in the study drank alcohol, so scientists could not reliably determine the effect of alcohol on the cardiovascular health of the weak half of humanity.

Regarding the effect of alcohol on the risk of heart attack, the results were less certain. This may be due to the small number of heart attacks in the study. Perhaps conclusions are yet to come.

Recall: according to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” 1 standard drink of alcohol is equivalent to a bottle of beer, a small glass of wine, or one glass containing 44 ml of vodka.

How alcohol affects health: a genetic approach

The study was conducted mainly in China. In East Asian populations, many people have one or more genetic variations that lead to an unpleasant reaction to alcohol. As a result, the inhabitants of China are more restrained in drinking than Europeans.

Researchers used genetic variations, also known as alleles, to analyze alcohol consumption. People inherit these curious features of DNA at birth..

“This is a natural version of a randomized controlled trial, where alleles are akin to“ intervention ”(treatment for alcoholism) that changes a person’s attitude to alcohol over a lifetime,” explains Dr. Benjamin Voight, Specialist in Statistics and Population Genetics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania , USA.

Voight believes that this approach overcomes some of the problems of traditional large-scale population studies, also known as epidemiological studies..

But even genetic analysis has its limitations. The study was conducted only on the Chinese population, so the results may not apply to people from other parts of the world..

“The participants consumed mostly strong alcoholic drinks. Meanwhile, other drinks - such as wine with protective phytochemicals - can have a different effect on the risk of stroke, ”said another expert, Dr. Gregory Markus, Clinical Director of Cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco, USA.

Scientists could not pinpoint these features based on their data..

Marcus also noted that genetic variation is not transmitted from parent to child in isolation. They are able to “travel” with a number of other DNA mutations that may affect the risk of stroke..

Moderate alcohol consumption: good or bad?

The authors write that their results indicate the absence of a protective effect from moderate alcohol consumption - therefore alcohol in any dose carries certain health risks.

“To be more precise, the benefits of alcohol in terms of cardiovascular disease may be less than previously thought. In terms of stroke, this is exactly what I expected, given the likely relationship between alcohol and atrial fibrillation, ”added Dr. Markus.

Regarding the relationship between alcohol and heart attack, Voight pointed to a previous study in the British Medical Journal, which used a similar analysis of genetic variations in the European population.

In 2014, Dr. Michael Holmes and his colleagues studied carriers of mutations associated with lower alcohol consumption and complete abstinence from alcohol. It turned out that these people have a kind of genetic protection against coronary heart disease - 2 in 1.

Perhaps the notorious glass of wine a day early to discount. Moderate alcohol consumption may still be beneficial for the heart and blood vessels..

Unfortunately, no adequate randomized trials have been conducted so far to confirm to refute the benefits of alcohol..

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