The latest critique from the ISFAR considers research into the link between alcohol and the likelihood of suffering a stroke

The latest critique from the ISFAR considers research into the link between alcohol and the likelihood of suffering a stroke

Most epidemiologic studies have shown a reduction in the risk of ischemic stroke (and total stroke, as ischemic stroke is by far the most common type in western countries) to be associated with light to moderate alcohol consumption.

A recent study, a meta-analysis, was based on 27 prospective studies; the authors categorised a reported intake of less than 15 grams per day as light consumption, and 15-30 grams per day as moderate consumption.

The authors point out differences (greater smoking, larger amounts of alcohol) between Chinese subjects and those from other countries, which may explain some of the differences shown in the research between alcohol’s effects in the different countries. They also point out that they had no data on the pattern of drinking (regular, moderate intake versus binge-drinking) or on the type of alcoholic beverage consumed. 

The key results of the study are a significant 15% reduction in total stroke for low alcohol-intake, no effect for moderate, and a 20% increased risk for heavy alcohol consumption.

Analyses were also done according to type of stroke: for ischemic stroke and stroke mortality there were decreases for low alcohol intake, but no significant effects of either moderate or heavy intake. For hemorrhagic stroke, the risk for subjects reporting heavy alcohol intake was higher than that of abstainers, but none of the differences between drinkers and non-drinkers was statistically significant.

This meta-analysis supports previous findings of a decrease in the risk of most strokes with light drinking and possibly an increase in the risk for heavy drinking.

ISFAR forum members generally agreed with the conclusions of the authors: “Low alcohol intake is associated with a reduced risk of stroke morbidity and mortality, whereas heavy alcohol intake is associated with an increased risk of total stroke. The association between alcohol intake and stroke morbidity and mortality is J-shaped.

“An alcohol intake of 0-20 grams per day is associated with decreased rates of stroke morbidity and mortality.” 

To read the full critique, click here.

These critiques are published with the permission of The ISFAR.