Alcohol consumption: an overview of benefits and risks

South Med J. 2004 Jul;97(7):664-72. doi: 10.1097/00007611-200407000-00012.


Published health benefits of regular light-to-moderate alcohol consumption include lower myocardial infarction rates, reduced heart failure rates, reduced risk of ischemic stroke, lower risk for dementia, decreased risk of diabetes and reduced risk of osteoporosis. Numerous complimentary biochemical changes have been identified that explain the beneficial effects of moderate alcohol consumption. Heavy alcohol consumption, however, can negatively affect neurologic, cardiac, gastrointestinal, hematologic, immune, psychiatric and musculoskeletal organ systems. Binge drinking is a significant problem even among moderate drinkers and is associated with particularly high social and economic costs. A cautious approach should be emphasized for those individuals who drink even small amounts of alcohol. Physicians can apply the research evidence describing the known risks and benefits of alcohol consumption when counseling their patients regarding alcohol consumption.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking* / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking* / mortality
  • Blood Coagulation Factors / analysis
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Counseling
  • Dementia / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Myocardial Infarction / prevention & control
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control
  • Stroke / prevention & control


  • Blood Coagulation Factors
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Insulin