Even Moderate Drinking Increases Stroke Risk, Groundbreaking Genetic Study Finds
A major genetic study has concluded that there is no healthy level of alcohol consumption, at least when it comes to stroke risk.
The study, published in The Lancet Thursday, contradicts some previous research suggesting that drinking one to two glasses a day might protect against stroke, though other studies have said there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, BBC news reported. In Thursday's study, a research team from the University of Oxford, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences found that even drinking one to two glasses a day increased stroke risk by 10 to 15 percent.
Moderate #alcohol consumption does not protect #against stroke: finding from a mendelian randomisation study… https://t.co/LWKqi4PcuS— The Lancet (@The Lancet)1554417300.0
"The key message here is that, at least for stroke, there is no protective effect of moderate drinking," study co-author and Oxford Nuffield Department of Population Health professor Zhengming Chen told Reuters. "The genetic evidence shows the protective effect is not real."
For heavy drinking, the effect was even more pronounced. Drinking four or more glasses a day increased stroke risk by 35 percent and raised blood pressure.
The researchers were confident in their results because they were able to use a unique genetic variant common in Asian populations to help separate the impact of alcohol on health from other factors, The Guardian explained.
In East Asian countries, around one third of people have a combination of genes that makes them flush and feel uncomfortable after drinking, leading them to drink less. However, the genes cut across status or overall health, so scientists can isolate them as a variable.
Researchers followed around 500,000 people from China for 10 years and tracked their drinking habits and incidents of stroke or heart attack. When they looked at self-reporting of alcohol consumption, they did find that drinking 100 grams of alcohol a week (one to two drinks a day) did seem to ward off stroke. However, when they looked at genetic data and location to predict the mean amount of alcohol consumed by participants, the protective effect disappeared. Stroke risk went up 38 percent for every additional 280 grams of alcohol consumed each week.
"Using genetics is a novel way ... to sort out whether moderate drinking really is protective, or whether it's slightly harmful," study author and Oxford epidemiologist Iona Millwood told Reuters. "Our genetic analyses have helped us understand the cause-and-effect relationships."
The study looked at both women and men, but very few women in China drink. While 33 percent of the male subjects consumed alcohol, only two percent of the women did. This allowed the researchers to further confirm the negative impacts of alcohol, since women with the same combination of genes did not have an increase in stroke risk.
University of Cambridge Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk David Spiegelhalter, who was not involved with the research, told The Guardian he found the results persuasive:
"This is a very impressive study which shows that men who, by chance, have a combination of genes that put them off drinking alcohol have a lower risk of stroke compared with those without these genes," he said.
"The fact that this is not true for Chinese women, who tend not to drink whatever their genes, suggests this effect is due to the alcohol rather than the genes themselves. I have always been reasonably convinced that moderate alcohol consumption was protective for cardiovascular disease, but now I am having my doubts."
The study could not draw any conclusions about the impact of alcohol consumption on heart attack risk. It also focused on beer and spirits, not wine, which some say may have separate health benefits.
"It has certainly advanced what we know about the role of alcohol in some diseases but it can't be the last word," Open University Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics Kevin McConway told BBC News. "The new study doesn't tie down exactly how alcohol works to increase stroke risk but doesn't appear to increase heart attack risk."
How #Sugar, #Alcohol and #Caffeine Affect Inflammation https://t.co/ldeDWLPmbL @HealthyChild @naturallysavvy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1546898417.0
A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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