Alcohol and inflammation: a possible mechanism for protection against ischemic heart disease

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2002 Jun;12(3):148-51.


Aim: Moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with a decreased risk for ischemic heart disease. Increases in high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol may explain approximately 50% of this apparent benefit. Another potential mechanism may involve the effects of alcohol on systemic inflammation. Accordingly, the purpose of this article is to provide a narrative review of the literature concerning alcohol and inflammation.

Data synthesis: Relevant articles were identified by searching MEDLINE from 1966 to 2001. Search terms included alcohol or ethanol combined with inflammation, interleukin-1, interleukin-6, or tumor necrosis factor alpha. Important references from these articles were also identified and reviewed.

Conclusions: Considerable evidence exists from animal and human studies for potentially anti-inflammatory effects of alcohol consumption. Further research is needed to determine the effects of various patterns and levels of alcohol consumption on systemic markers of inflammation in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cholesterol, HDL / metabolism*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / prevention & control
  • Inflammation / therapy*
  • Interleukin-1 / analysis
  • Interleukin-6 / analysis
  • Myocardial Ischemia / prevention & control*
  • Prognosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / analysis


  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha