Having just one or two alcoholic drinks a night significantly increases the risk of suffering a stroke in later life, a major study has shown.

Experts from Oxford University said their study of 500,000 people finally dispels the ‘myth’ that light drinking protects health.

They found that one or two drinks a day increased the risk of suffering a stroke in the next ten years by 10 to 15 per cent, and four drinks a day by 35 per cent.

For years many experts have argued that consuming alcohol moderately has a protective effect – pointing to studies which showed the odd glass of wine or pint of beer reduced the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

But critics argue those studies were flawed – because they included alcoholics who have become tee-total or people who did not drink because of other health problems.

So the evidence seemed to suggest that light drinkers were at lower risk than those who drank nothing at all.

The new study, published in the Lancet medical journal, got around this problem by using a genetic study of people in China.

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