Background: For the past 20 years numerous epidemiological studies have correlated the consumption of alcohol and a variety of disease states: overall mortality, arteriosclerotic vascular diseases, hypertension, cancers, peptic ulcer, respiratory infections, gall stones, kidney stones, age-related macular degeneration, bone density, and cognitive function.
Methods: A review of these articles reveals that each of these studies has compared the outcome of individuals at various levels of alcohol consumption with that of abstainers.
Results: Each analysis has identified a U-shaped or J-shaped curve of reduced relative risk for a given disease state compared with abstainers. A clear definition of consumption in moderation becomes evident: for men it should not exceed 2 to 4 drinks per day, and for women it should not exceed 1 to 2 drinks per day.
Conclusions: Alcohol by itself has favorable effects on the level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and inhibition of platelet aggregation. Wine, particularly red wine, has high levels of phenolic compounds that favorably influence multiple biochemical systems, such as increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, antioxidant activity, decreased platelet aggregation and endothelial adhesion, suppression of cancer cell growth, and promotion of nitric oxide production.