The research, carried out at the University of Bristol, shows that alcohol intake may play a major role in determining blood pressure. The researchers combined data from eight previous studies involving almost 12,000 men and women. Instead of simply asking individuals to cut back on their alcohol intake and looking at how this affected blood pressure, the researchers took into account the person's genes.
Many of those studied had rogue copies of a gene which has a key role in determining how well the body gets rid of alcohol.
Those with the genetic flaw, which is most common among Asian populations, are intolerant to alcohol, and experience facial flushing, nausea, drowsiness and other unpleasant side effects when they drink.
As a result, they tend to drink much less than other people. By comparing the blood pressure of those with and without the flaw, the researchers effectively pitted non-drinkers against drinkers.
The analysis showed that men who drank three units of alcohol a day were 2.42 times more likely to have high blood pressure than the non-drinkers. The same is likely to be true for women.
''This study shows that alcohol intake may increase blood pressure to a much greater extent, even among moderate drinkers, than previously thought,'' the Daily Mail quoted researcher Dr Sarah Lewis as saying.
Although further research was needed to firm up the link, she said her analysis was likely to be more accurate than studies which rely on monitoring blood pressure as drinkers cut their alcohol intake.
Their results can be affected by factors such as diet and exercise.
However, the finding appears to conflict with studies which have suggested small amounts of alcohol - around two units a day - cut the risk of heart disease.