Alcohol consumption

Research claiming light drinking is harmful is wrong, new study finds

A landmark study that suggested even a small amount of alcohol was harmful is wrong, new research has found.

The influential paper Posted in The Lancet in 2019 claimed that even light drinking increases blood pressure and the risk of having a stroke.

The study, based on 500,000 people, used genetic-based techniques to dispel misconceptions that drinking one or two alcoholic beverages a day might have protective properties.

Richard Peto, one of the authors of the study, concluded at the time that: “claims that wine and beer have magical protective effects [are] not confirmed. »

Now a new article to be published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, argues that the 2019 study is “potentially dubious”.

Professor Sir Nicholas Wald of University College London and Chris Frost of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine write: “We conclude that the observation in many studies that light drinking reduces the risk of stroke but greater consumption increases it, is not necessarily refuted. by the genetic analysis of Millwood and his colleagues.

“It is important for public health policy that the true relationship between alcohol consumption and vascular disease be recognized.”

Previous epidemiological studies have shown a so-called J-shaped relationship between alcohol and stroke risk, in which low drinkers appear to have a lower risk than non-drinkers. This risk increases as alcohol consumption becomes heavier. When these risks are plotted on a graph, the curve takes the form of the letter J.

Frost and Wald show that the J-shaped relationship is not refuted by applying the genetic epidemiological analysis used in the 2019 paper.

“You can no longer say that any amount of alcohol is harmful in the same way that you can say that any amount of tobacco is harmful,” Professor Wald said. The temperature.

He added that “the occasional glass of wine, or no more than a glass of beer, say, every other day would be acceptable given the current state of our knowledge.

“You don’t have to think that the only safe drinking is zero,” he said.

In June, a team of researchers from Imperial University London discovered that drinking any amount of alcohol, even within government guidelines, however, has a toxic effect on our organs.

The study, which looked at MRI scans of around 10,000 people aged 40 to 69 to see if there was a ‘safe level’ of alcohol consumption, but concluded there was not.

“Our results imply that there is no ‘safe threshold’ below which there are no toxic effects of alcohol,” the study authors said, adding that the guidelines current public health “may need to be reviewed”.

According to the NHS, men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

A tall glass of 12 percent wine is three units, as is a pint of lager or high-strength beer (5.2 percent).

NHS guidelines recommend that those who regularly drink this amount per week try to spread their intake over three or more days.