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.