Now even sticking to medics’ alcohol guidelines is bad for your health! Risk of heart problems could be increased even if you drink less than NHS weekly units, study suggests
- A study of 300,000 people found beer, cider and spirits increased health risks
- Moderate wine drinking appears to slightly reduce risks of cardiovascular events
- Drinking beer, cider and spirits can increase the risk of stroke by 30 per cent
It is bad news for those who enjoy a swift pint or the occasional gin and tonic.
But even fewer than the NHS recommended 14 units of alcohol a week could increase the risk of heart problems, if your tipple of choice is beer, cider or spirits.
A study of more than 300,000 people found drinking wine appears to slightly reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death from a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack.
Drinking less than the NHS recommended 14 units of alcohol a week could increase the risk of heart problems, if your tipple of choice is beer, cider or spirits
The authors of the study say each additional pint-and-a-half of beer, at 4 per cent strength, is linked to a 23 per cent increased risk of suffering a cardiovascular event in drinkers who stay below the guideline limit
But beer, cider and spirits increase the risk, especially of a stroke.
Even moderate drinkers consuming these drinks, who keep below the recommended 14 units a week – or six pints of average-strength beer – do not appear to get away with it.
The authors of the study say each additional pint-and-a-half of beer, at 4 per cent strength, is linked to a 23 per cent increased risk of suffering a cardiovascular event in drinkers who stay below the guideline limit.
Dr Rudolph Schutte, who led the research from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, said: ‘The idea of a health benefit from low to moderate alcohol consumption is the biggest myth since we were told smoking was good for us.’
Many studies have suggested alcohol drinkers have a lower risk of heart problems than those who do not consume it at all. But critics say this is because people often give up booze because of health issues, making them more likely to suffer such complications.
The new research, looking at 333,259 drinkers from the UK Biobank study, got around this by analysing the participants without comparing them to non-drinkers.
Every additional pint-and-a-half of beer in a week, or the equivalent increase in alcohol for cider, or one-and-a-half measures of spirits, was linked to a 24 per cent increased risk of a cardiovascular event.
The risk was higher, at 23 per cent, even for people who stayed below 14 units a week of these drinks.
But an extra 175ml glass of red, white or sparkling wine, at 13 per cent strength, was linked to an 8 per cent reduction in the risk of suffering a cardiovascular event leading to hospitalisation or an early death. Alcohol is known to increase the risk of heart problems, but the polyphenols in the grapes used to make wine may have some protective effects.
The study, published in the Clinical Nutrition journal and looking only at those aged 40 to 69, found an increase in the wine people drank was not linked to a higher risk of having a stroke. But each rise in the amount of beer, cider and spirits someone had was linked to a 30 per cent greater risk of stroke.
Tracy Parker, of the British Heart Foundation, said 14 units a week should not be seen as a target to aim for. She added: ‘Drinking too much can also contribute to weight gain, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure and other circulatory diseases.’
This month the World Heart Federation said any level of drinking can lead to loss of healthy life in a bid to dispel the idea that a daily glass of wine may be good for you.