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Home Industry News Alcohol’s link to blood pressure ‘greater than thought’

Alcohol’s link to blood pressure ‘greater than thought’

4th March 2008

Alcohol’s effect on high blood pressure (hypertension) may be higher than previously thought, researchers claim.

Previous studies have found that heavy alcohol intake is a risk factor for hypertension but the team behind the latest research say these may have been confounded by factors including diet, smoking and exercise levels.

For the study researchers from Bristol University analysed people who have a mutation on a gene which affects their body’s ability to eliminate alcohol.

After drinking alcohol it is initially metabolised to an intermediate compound before it is further metabolised and eliminated from the body.

This process happens largely because of the enzyme alcohol dehydrohenase 2 (ALDH2).

People with a genetic mutation have an inability to metabolise the intermediate compound, resulting in facial flushing, intense nausea, drowsiness and other symptoms after alcohol consumption.

As a result people with this genetic mutation drink much less than those without it.

The researchers compared the blood pressure of people with the genetic mutation and those without it.

They found that individuals without it had an alcohol intake of around three units per day and had strikingly higher blood pressure than those with the mutation, who tend to drink only very small amounts, or no alcohol.

Commenting on the findings, lead researcher Dr Sarah Lewis said: “This study shows that alcohol intake may increase blood pressure to a much greater extent, even among moderate drinkers, than previously thought.

“Large-scale replication studies are required to confirm this finding and to improve the precision of our estimates.”

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