However, the apparent protective effect of moderate tippling did not hold true for smokers.
The lowest stroke risk was observed among nonsmokers who consumed between three to 14 "units" of alcohol per week, each unit being equal to about a glass of wine.
This level of consumption -- below what the authors defined as the upper "moderate consumption" limit of 21 glasses per week -- afforded participants a 37 percent reduction in stroke risk.
However, smokers who drank a similar amount of alcohol had no such decline in their odds for stroke.
Li and her colleagues conclude that "smoking may modify [the] relationship between alcohol and stroke risk."
For his part, Dr. Ralph Sacco, chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Miami, said the finding confirms that "smoking is a powerful risk factor for stroke".
"In my own research, the protective affect of moderate alcohol consumption was seen among both smokers and nonsmokers," he noted. "However, it is possible that we'll ultimately find that smoking wipes out the benefit, because it certainly does increase stroke risk in general."
"And so while it's hard for us to advocate that people should start drinking a little alcohol if they don't do so already, we do need to get the message out that if you're currently drinking heavy amounts of alcohol you need to reduce down to small amounts," Sacco said. "And we need to make sure that people don't smoke."
Find out more about stroke risk factors at the National Stroke Association .
SOURCES: Yangmei Li, M.Phil, Ph.D. candidate, Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, U.K.; Ralph Sacco, M.D., chair
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