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Light to moderate drinking harms health

Alcohol abuse is a common worry nowadays. However, several years ago, a widely reported study found that light to moderate alcohol consumption might actually provide some health benefits. These findings are now being called into question as a huge co-operative study has found that even light drinking harms health.

The new study was conducted by 155 researchers from the UK, Europe, North America and Australia. It analysed data from 56 different studies and used information from more than 260,000 people.

The researchers found a group of people who carried a gene that made them less likely to drink alcohol. This group drank 17% less alcohol per week than the people without the genes, binge drank less and were more likely to avoid alcohol altogether.

By looking at the health outcomes of the people who drank less, researchers made some startling discoveries. The people that were genetically predisposed to drink less were 10% less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, had lower blood pressure and a lower body mass index (BMI).

According to the researchers, this is evidence that cutting down on alcohol, even if you are a light or moderate drinker, is beneficial for a healthy heart.

The study's co-lead author, Michael Holmes, who is a research assistant professor in Perelman School of Medicine’s department of transplant surgery said: "Contrary to what earlier reports have shown, it now appears that any exposure to alcohol has a negative impact upon heart health."

Holmes went on to say: "However, what we're seeing with this new study, which uses an investigative approach similar to a randomised clinical trial, is that reduced consumption of alcohol, even for light to moderate drinkers, may lead to improved cardiovascular health."

The group of people that were studied were picked because they carried the gene, alcohol dehydrogenase 1B. This gene helps make a protein that can break down alcohol more quickly. People who carry this gene break down alcohol faster, but the process can cause nausea and facial flushing. This may be why they drink less and may avoid alcohol altogether.

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