Cardioprotective effects of light-moderate consumption of alcohol: a review of putative mechanisms

Alcohol Alcohol. 2002 Sep-Oct;37(5):409-15. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/37.5.409.


There is abundant epidemiological and clinical evidence showing that light-moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), total and ischaemic stroke and total mortality in middle-aged and elderly men and women. The epidemiological evidence suggests a J- or U-shaped relationship between alcohol and CHD. However, the apparent benefits of moderate drinking on CHD mortality are offset at higher drinking levels by increasing risk of death from other types of heart diseases (cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia etc.), neurological disorders, cancer, liver cirrhosis, and traffic accidents. The plausible mechanisms for the putative cardioprotective effects include increased levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, decreased levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, prevention of clot formation, reduction in platelet aggregation, and lowering of plasma apolipoprotein(a) concentration. Thus, alcohol reduces the risk of coronary vascular diseases both by inhibiting the formation of atheroma and decreasing the rate of blood coagulation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Animals
  • Cardiotonic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Coronary Disease / mortality
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control*
  • Ethanol / therapeutic use
  • Humans


  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Ethanol