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Moderate drinking does not prevent stroke

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Excessive drinking increases the incidence of stroke, but there is no clear conclusion as to whether small or moderate drinking increases or decreases the incidence of stroke. A 10-year follow-up study involving 500,000 adults in China published recently by Lancet magazine shows that moderate alcohol consumption does not prevent stroke. As alcohol intake increases, blood pressure and stroke risk gradually increase.

Chen Zhengming, co-author of the study and professor of the Department of Population Health at Nafield, Oxford University, UK, said that the data were derived from the Prospective Study of Chronic Diseases in China, which was carried out jointly by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Oxford University and involved more than 500,000 people in 10 provinces in China. It is one of the largest prospective population cohort studies in the world.

"By analyzing two common genetic variants affecting individual drinking intake in East Asian populations, we found that drinking directly increases blood pressure levels and increases the risk of stroke." Chen Zhengming said that these two common genetic variations can significantly reduce the body's tolerance to alcohol. Individuals carrying these genetic variant loci may experience facial flushing after drinking (i.e. flushing reaction), which greatly reduces the amount of alcohol consumed. However, these genetic variations are not significantly associated with other lifestyles such as smoking, so they can be used to study the direct causal relationship between alcohol intake and health.

Chen Zhengming said the findings negate the view that moderate drinking has a protective effect, "at least for stroke. But for heart disease, our current research findings are difficult to fully conclude. We will collect more research data in the future. According to this study, 8% of ischemic stroke and 16% of hemorrhagic stroke in Chinese male population can be directly attributed to alcohol consumption.

Professor Li Liming of Peking University, co-author of the study, said that there were few genetic variations that significantly affected alcohol metabolism in Western populations, making it difficult to carry out similar studies. The impact of alcohol on stroke in East Asian populations revealed by the study should be applied to other populations around the world. Similarly, although the majority of the people in this study drank liquor, the conclusions of this study are also applicable to other types of liquor.

Li Liming said that the study suggested that the Framework Convention on Alcohol Control should be formulated in the light of the model of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.