Alcohol-a universal preventive agent? A critical analysis

Addiction. 2013 Dec;108(12):2051-7. doi: 10.1111/add.12104. Epub 2013 Mar 1.


Background: In observational studies, moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of more than twenty different diseases and health problems. However, it would be premature to conclude that there is a causal relationship.

Method: This paper critically reviews the evidence for such associations.

Findings: It was found that reasons for questioning the causal association of moderate drinking and a reduced health risk are: the lack of dose-response relationships; the characteristics and lifestyles of today's abstainers and moderate drinkers; the lack of plausible biological mechanisms; the problems in the classification of drinking groups, and; the general limitations of observational studies.

Conclusions: The evidence for the harmful effects of alcohol is undoubtedly stronger than the evidence for beneficial effects.

Keywords: Alcohol; causallity; confounders; diseases; prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Temperance / statistics & numerical data


  • Ethanol