New Study Finds That One Drink a Day Raises Your Risk of a Stroke

One glass of Chardonnay does not keep the doctor away.

empty beer bottle tops

The prevailing buzzword in America regarding alcohol intake is "moderation." You know: As long as we drink our alcohol in moderation—which the CDC defines as one drink per day for women and two for men—we're totally in the clear, health-wise. But according to a new study published in The Lancet, having just one alcoholic beverage a day does come with significant health risks. Specifically, it increases your risk of having a stroke down the road.

For the study, teams of researchers from the U.K.'s Oxford University and China's Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Peking Union Medical College analyzed the data of more than 500,000 Chinese adults throughout the course of a decade. Ultimately, they found that while having four drinks a day increased the risk of having a stroke by 35 percent, just one glass of wine, one bottle of beer, or one shot of hard liquor-per-day increased the risk by 10 to 15 percent.

The teams focused on a specific portion of the Chinese population who were genetically predisposed to having at least one of two enzymes that are associated with lower alcohol consumption. "In our population, men drink more than 20 times as much as women, so these two [genetic] variants have large absolute effects on alcohol intake only among men," the paper reads. The researchers used women as a control group, given that fewer than two percent reported having alcohol with any regularity at all.

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"Using genetics is a novel way to assess the health effects of alcohol and to sort out whether moderate drinking really is protective or whether it's slightly harmful," said Iona Millwood, a senior epidemiologist at the University of Oxford and co-author of the study. "Our genetic analyses have helped us understand the cause and effect relationships."

The study is just the latest to challenge the commonly-held belief that a glass of wine per day is good for your heart and your brain.

Last August, a global analysis of men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 declared that no amount of alcohol was safe to drink. And another recent study concluded that having as little as 5 to 10 drinks per week can shorten your lifespan by 6 months.

However, it's worth noting that alcohol consumption rates in the Chinese study were self-reported. Given that pretty much everyone who goes to the doctor knows that the whole "drinks-per-week" questions often results in a little white lie, one can't help but wonder if the results are a bit skewed.

Regardless, if you've been looking for an excuse to quit or cut back, now is always a terrific time to start. And if you've tried before and just can't seem to manage, you may be interested in learning Why So Many People Can't Stop Drinking.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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