More Evidence Suggests Alcohol Has Zero Health Benefit (and Definite Risk)

The debate over whether or not alcohol might have some health benefits may finally have come to an end:  and it is not looking good for those who like to think their glass-of-wine with dinner is more than a meal accompaniment. 

According to a new study, the only anatomical difference that moderate drinking makes is a slightly higher risk for stroke and high blood pressure. The study looked at the potential health risks for having 1 or 2 drinks per day over a long period of time.  For many years it was believed that this proclivity lowers risk for stroke and heart issues (when compared with non-drinkers).  However, scientists have always been uncertain if this is because alcohol, alone, has benefits or if those who drink moderately also had other factors.  

Indeed, study co-author Professor Zhengming Chen definitively comments, “There are no protective effects of moderate alcohol intake against stroke.  Even moderate alcohol consumption increases the chances of having a stroke.”

Overall, the researchers determined that stroke risk actually increased by 35 percent for every four alcoholic drinks (daily). In fact, the study implicates that alcohol could also be the cause of at least 8 percent of all strokes related to a blood clot and approximately 16 percent of all strokes related to brain hemorrhaging.

It is important to remember that a significant amount of this data came from studies analyzing 500,000 men and women China, so there may be some limitations. However, East Asia was selected specifically because this population has a common genetic intolerance for alcohol.

Still, study co-author Liming Li, from Peking University, “Stroke is a major cause of death and disability. This large collaborative study has shown that stroke rates are increased by alcohol. This should help inform personal choices and public health strategies.” 

This is not the first study, obviously, to show that alcohol can increase health risks.  Even just last year another study suggested that an additional serving of wine or beer in a single week (over a long period of time) could reduce life expectancy by [a compounding] 30 minutes. 

As such, lead author Max Griswold, from the University of Washington, explains what to make of this outcome.  “Policies focusing on reducing alcohol consumption to the lowest levels will be important to improve health.  The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising, particularly as improved methods and analyses continue to shed light on how much alcohol contributes to global death and disability.”

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